Retail Therapy

By Zoe Walker

Chanel is the world's most successful label

"Lagerfeld's overrated," screams the cover of a recent issue of Newsweek. "Such a statement rings like heresy within a fashion universe where the highly acclaimed designer struts upon his lofty stage as the creative director of Chanel - but it's true."

The four-page feature supporting the claim is written by the fashion journalist, Robin Givhan. Its premise is that Lagerfeld - what with the Coca-Cola bottles, photography, and, most recently, a "Karl" collection, not to mention work at Fendi, Hogan, 7L (his publishing imprint) and so forth - has spread himself too thin.

Even Givhan herself qualifies that argument: "The pronouncement is not meant to imply that the German-born Lagerfeld isn't supremely talented and culturally influential. Through his work at Chanel, it's clear he is all of those things."

Given that next year marks Lagerfeld's 30th anniversary at the house and that it remains the single most successful fashion label, one could be forgiven for wondering: overrated how?

The writer argues that, other than for Chanel, Lagerfeld's work is at best unremarkable and at worst derivative and even at Chanel it is Gabrielle "Coco" Chanel's own style that endures as opposed to his own. And here is the clincher: "no matter how much Lagerfeld has done to burnish Chanel, he needs Chanel more than it needs him."

It is all too easy to accuse the fashion industry of indiscriminate hyperbole. "Praise drips off him [Lagerfeld] in thick, opaque globs," Givhan writes, in grandiose style.

But the relationship between Chanel and Lagerfeld is unprecedented because it is a perfectly balanced one. The mega-budget shows, the creative control that extends beyond the clothes themselves to encompass everything from shooting the ad campaigns to hand-picking the tribe of bright young things which advises him and the fact that the designer is given free rein to follow his interests outside the company are all testimony to that fact.

Only one question remains: who do any detractors think might possibly succeed him?

- Susannah Frankel, The Independent

Art and fashion

Ponsonby Rd gallery Black Asterisk will host a special night of art and fashion tomorrow night, with stylist Jess Neff on hand with a selection of designer pieces bought over from New York for sale - including things from Christian Louboutin, Miu Miu, Alexis Bittar, Diane von Furstenberg, Marc by Marc Jacobs and more. Proceeds from the fashion sale will go to Neff's charity, Books for Bali. To attend, RSVP to style@jessneff.com.

Viva goes Live

Meet the Viva team at the Viva Live seminar next week, as part of the NZ Fashion Festival. Eating Out editor and chef Nici Wickes will discuss fashion and food, fashion editor Ana Macdonald and photographer Babiche Martens will talk through the new season, and Karen Walker will be our very special guest. If you have a question that you have been burning to ask her, email it to us and we might just ask it for you on the night. Send your question to viva@nzherald.co.nz, with Karen Walker in the subject line.

* Viva Live, Wednesday February 29, 7pm, Shed 10, Queens Wharf, Auckland. Tickets $25 from iTicket.co.nz (search "Viva")

Pattern making

We love this: graphic designer Florencia Gaffner has set up a "project blog", which sees her create a surface pattern each week for a year (or 53 weeks), posting it online with a wee explanation about the ideas and inspiration behind it. Recent patterns include a quirky "band of peculiar dogs", repeats of the Eiffel Tower in the shape of snowflakes (using the special Paris Green colour) and illustrations of stylish women akin to the covers of 1950s sewing patterns. See Gaffner's work and follow the project.

Belt up

Hot on our wish list are the handcrafted jigsaw belts which have recently arrived in store at Taylor Boutique. Created by London based label Eye of the World, the belts are made of reclaimed wood and come in different colours and shapes. $467 from Taylor Boutique, Newmarket, ph (09) 524 3662, and Ponsonby, ph (09) 376 6544.

Turning Japanese

To experience a touch of Japanese culture, check out Japan Day this Sunday from 10am at the ASB Showgrounds, Greenlane. As well as exhibitions and performances there will be food and craft stalls.

- NZ Herald

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