A true visionary, Gabrielle Chanel is a woman of wonder. Not only had she influenced the world over with her personal style, she also liberated women from the grip of corsetry and inducted boyish looks as part of womenswear.
While elements such as pearls and camellias are synonymous with the maison, Chanel is also synonymous with sportswear – another essential element born from her intuition for the sporting influence on fashion.
Chanel’s love for sportswear sparked through Etienne Balsan, a horse enthusiast who introduced her to the world of horse racing and riding.
Her love for horses grew deeper when she was with the Duke of Westminster, hence giving her the notion that she should design comfortable riding trousers made to cater her own needs.
“I, who like women, I wanted to give her outfits in which she would feel at ease, in which she could drive a car and at the same time emphasise her femininity in dresses which hug the body,” said Chanel.
The story goes that soon, women began to embrace her take on sportswear and it prompted Chanel to open a sports atelier in 1921, churning out pieces such as coats, tennis dresses with boat necks, soft suits, sweaters for golfing and the beach — all were inspired by her personal wardrobe.
The bold yet innovative move enabled Chanel to garner international acclaim that came perfectly with the boom of a new outdoor-inclined lifestyle where women were given access to sporting disciplines as well as the growth of coastal resorts.
Even after the demise of Gabrielle Chanel in 1971 and after Karl Lagerfeld took over the designing rein, sporting element remains thriving.
Continuing Chanel’s legacy, Lagerfeld has never ceased to explore deep into the depths of the world of sports and sportswear by integrating it into womenswear.
Taking Gabrielle as inspiration, the result was pieces that meet everyday desires and needs of women, forever directing the zeitgeist rather than following it.
“You have to create the sorts of clothes that women need. Fashion isn’t just about suits, dresses and evening gowns. Everyone goes skiing and has to wear appropriate clothing,” says Lagerfeld. “These days sports clothes must be easy to wear and in fashion. They are worn just as much in town with a pair of jeans, as in the countryside, in the cold and rain. It’s the sport attitude.”
For fall/winter 2014, Lagerfeld injected sporty attitude into the collection by accessorising the pieces with pairs of sneakers crafted in leather and tweed, in both high and low cuts.
Imbued with characteristic humour, rather than being solely used for sporting activities such as running and training, Lagerfeld wanted the shoes to be part of everyday life’s wardrobe.
In a way, sneakers are to be the new fashion essential, just as essential as little black dresses or handbags. In fact, do not be surprised if you feel certainly naked without it.
Juxtaposing luxurious materials with its most famous technical characteristic — thick rubber soles — the new Chanel sneakers are perfectly crafted to adhere to the ethos of the maison.
It can be worn with suits; leggings, an overcoat or even evening dresses (remember how singer Lily Allen paired her sneakers with a red, beribboned gown in the video for her single, “LDN”?)
Moreover, it comes in twenty different combinations of materials and colours: tweed in a multitude of effects (chevrons, woven, bouclé …), suede, in laminated, crackled or iridescent leather, and in distinct associations dominated by black and pink, orange, black and gold, red and green, pink and silver.