For thousands of years humans have continued to look back to one particular point in history. A time of myth and magic; of mystical beings like the winged horse Pegasus and the three Fates, terrifying monsters like the Hydra and the Gorgons, and great heroes such as Hercules and Jason. Artists, poets and philosophers alike have travelled back to Ancient Greece as a place of wonder, a simpler time, a greater time – a ‘Golden Age’ – and as a means of understanding the chaos of their contemporary age.
Now we can add fashion designer to that list. Of course, designers have long looked to the past for inspiration, cherry-picking techniques, silhouettes and design ideas from our ancestors and re-working them into something inherently modern.
What few have done though is taken the past as a theme and run with it completely. Enter Chanel’s Cruise ’18 show; an unadulterated ode to the Ancient Greek world. The pieces are what we would love to wear if we were Greek Goddesses, looking down on the world from Mount Olympus. Draped dresses floating down the runway, toga-style pleats, gilded laurel wreath prints, illustrations taken from an Ancient Greek frieze or amphora and gladiator sandals wrapped half-way up models’ legs. The ideal summer holiday outfit inspiration.
Even the iconic Chanel tweed suit got a summer makeover with a looser shape, fringed hems and rope belt detail.
Originally designer Karl Lagerfeld wanted to present the collection in Greece itself (after last year’s historical trip to Cuba) but was unable to find a perfect location. Instead reproductions of the Parthénon and Temple of Poseidon were built inside Paris’s Grand Palais.
It is a huge leap from the aching futurism of Chanel’s A/W ’18 collection (of which the set was a Chanel embossed rocket ship launching).
Lagerfeld’s choice was less about the actuality of Greece and rather its reputation as the birthplace of democracy and “the cradle of beauty, culture and modernity”; “It had nothing to do with a country. Reality is of no interest to me. I use what I like. My Greece is an idea.” “I’m suggesting going back to move forward,” Lagerfeld described the choice in a press statement. “To create the future, you have to pay attention to the past.”
With Donald Trump continuing to brew political uncertainty with talk of World War 3, the upcoming General Election and Brexit negotiations in the UK, and a new-comer President soon to take up the reigns in France, it’s no wonder that the fashion industry would rather take a romanticised look backwards than a dystopian one forwards.
Words: Esther Newman