Last week, Chanel presented its spectacular haute couture collection to a small group of editors and stylists in Hong Kong. Taking over the Gallerie Perrotin in Central, the brand brought over a vast array of the 80 plus looks so that clients and fashion journalists could get up close and personal with the painstaking workmanship that goes into these outfits.
I've been intrigued by this collection since January when I saw its debut at the Grand Palais in Paris because it pushed the boundaries of what conventional, classical couture should be. Karl Lagerfeld sent out embellished trainers, some sparkling with iridescent sequins, flowers and transparent laces - there was not a high heel in sight. These trainers, made by Parisian ateliers and starting at around €4,500 (HK$48,000) a pair, are obviously not meant for running. And during private appointments in Hong Kong, they've been quite popular - indicating that the Asian couture client might also be coming around to new and innovative takes on what to expect from the couture service.
Indeed, representatives from Chanel tell us there was a time when clients had to travel to Paris to order haute couture. These days, many brands bring the collections east. This time it was Hong Kong, before Shanghai and Beijing.
Since couture traditionally services the realm of red carpet events and high-profile engagements for the world's richest women, it was a radical move for Lagerfeld to root Chanel's spring collection in daywear that is athletic, easy and feather-light to wear. But that's not to say these outfits are simple or a counterpoint to the fine handicraft that is the defining feature of haute couture - a fashion subculture that has a very specific set of requirements.
On closer inspection, you can see the painstaking detail involved in hand embroidering, beading and sewing sequins on each outfit.
A dress constructed from thousands of different coloured feathers, each applied by hand, looks painterly and takes at least 300 hours to make. There is a nude sparkling set with a long-sleeved top and cycling shorts. On the shorts alone there are 42,000 sequins sewn on. Another stunning evening dress boasts an astonishing 100,000 sequins.
Thick plumes of iridescent feathers define the shape and essence of delicate, yet tribal looking, evening dresses.
It's a smart move for the brand to present its coveted couture range out East and to take the time to explain the finer details that might have been lost in the grand scale of its catwalk show. It's no secret that couture is experiencing growth in Asia, and proactive engagement with this market can do the brand no harm.