Unraveling the Archive: Chanel, Spring/Summer 1994
In September 1993, it had been ten years since Karl Lagerfeld accepted the challenge to revive the house of Chanel despite his entourage’s doubts and disapproval. In that lapse of time, Lagerfeld single-handedly redefined what it meant to be a fashion designer and proved that he was a major contender amongst fashion's top representatives: Not only was he successfully carrying out the legacy of Chanel, but he was simultaneously masterminding collections for Fendi, Chloé, and his eponymous label, while succeeding at photography, and publishing, too—a creative chaos that reflected a larger narrative in the fashion industry at the time.
The beginning of the 1990s was a key shifting moment in the fashion industry, and Lagerfeld, as per usual, had his finger on the pulse of style. Lagerfeld was one of the first fashion designers to understand the power and influence of pop culture figures of the TV and film industries, calling upon actresses Sarah Bernhard to portray Gabrielle ‘Coco’ Chanel in the first look of his Spring/Summer 1994 collection in lieu of the habitual supermodel.
In this collection, Lagerfeld left the big shoulders, the ornaments, the power dressing, and bling in the ateliers. Instead, he created a collection that seemed to touch on the rising current mood: minimalism. The line was mostly unobstructed, but all exuded an oomph for the bourgeois woman in need of a refresh. There were very mini-skirts, hot pants in tweed, a whole range of undergarments and swimwear, a series of corsets, body-hugging dresses, and midriffs-for-days. Worth mentioning were the see-through little black dresses—there was something chic and easy about the proposition. Lagerfeld also sent down the runway denim outfits, proving once more that a couture house such as Chanel could embrace the spirit of the times. Most important, the collection features some of the most iconic and coveted Chanel catwalk relics of Lagerfeld’s tenure: the suspenders, the roller-skates, and the logoed tiny itsy-bitsy black bikinis worn by Naomi, Claudia and Christy.
The idea of minimalism—according to Chanel and brought to you by Karl Lagerfeld—was slightly toned down, but undeniably reminiscent of Coco Chanel herself. Even today, Lagerfeld manages to conjure the true spirit of his predecessor while tapping into the zeitgeist.