With much fanfare, Karl Lagerfeld held his Chanel cruise collection in a little place called Dubai, creating an oasis setting on a man-made desert island complete with palm trees, Bedouin tents, and a performance by Janelle Monáe. Much had been made of the fact that Dubai is home to the world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa, a looming sign of United Arab Emirates’ newfound affluence and importance. And where there’s affluence and importance, there’s Chanel, the world’s wealthiest privately-held fashion house.
Opulent and richly decorated though it was, ostentatious it was not. This is the Middle East after all, where a sexlessness is paramount, particularly for women. The collection of 84 arabesque looks bared nary a leg, in fact barely any skin at all. Rather, lacy coveralls, legging suits and harem pants reigned supreme, each textile more sumptuous, embroidered, and beaded than the last. Chiffon dresses were printed in a mosaic style reminiscent of a mosque’s tilework, while red patterned keffiyeh scarves were transformed into tweed jackets. Where there wasn’t a jacket, there was a tunic. And in place of stilettos, slippers and sandals.
As Lagerfeld told Tim Blanks of Style.com, “[Dubai] is something totally unexpected. You couldn’t imagine it fifty years ago…This is my idea of a romantic, modern Orient, a new One Thousand and One Nights.”