The internet isn’t exactly a series of tubes, as US Senator Ted Stevens once metaphorically asserted, but neither is it just a nebulous cloud of 1s and 0s floating in the ether. There’s actual hardware behind it, and it’s very drab hardware—big metal boxes and wires, housed in cavernous, dystopian warehouses. (Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg offered a glimpse of this world when he proudly released photos of his company’s giant data center last week.)
Chanel, which has a reputation for constructing the most elaborate sets in all of fashion, recreated that environment at Paris’s Grand Palais for its spring ready-to-wear presentation today (Oct. 4). To open the show, two models clad in robot gear and Chanel’s signature tweed walked a corridor of mainframes, criss-crossed by colorful wiring. More obviously human models followed, looking like they may have gotten lost in the subterranean labyrinth of a tech company’s data center.
Creative director Karl Lagerfeld used the backdrop to muse on the digital age, rather than present a coherent thesis. Instead of digging into any aspect of life post-internet, such as social media, which has completely changed the fashion industry over the past decade, Lagerfeld generally riffed on the ubiquity of technology. “Imagine your life without the telephone and the next step will be artificial intelligence and robots,” he told Reuters TV.
The invite was Chanel’s logo of interlocking C’s, formed from frayed wires. There were bags that lit up, and tweeds that journalist Susie Lau described as “mega byte glitchy.”
Despite the increasing digitization of the world, fashion is one industry that still relies primarily on manual labor. Companies are making progress toward using robots to sew, but most work is still done by human hands, especially in the Chanel atelier, which Lagerfeld used as the setting for the brand’s couture show in July. He honored the real work behind the scenes that makes the fantasy on the runway possible.
His show today did something similar, highlighting the sorts of machines and spaces that make the world of fashion Instagram possible, and also playfully working the blinking lights and multi-colored wires into meticulously crafted products.
Chanel’s guests were able to walk around the set to get a closer look, and of course to take plenty of pictures for social media.
Celebrities posed in front of Chanel’s faux machinery. Without context, you might think they were very excited to get a tour of a company’s server farm.
What goes on behind the scenes may not always be pretty, but sometimes it’s worth pausing to remember it’s there. Hopefully Chanel’s IT department appreciated the gesture.