To mark Chanel’s recent Tokyo extravaganza, Karl Lagerfeld created one of his Coco Chanel watercolour sketches. Naturally, Mademoiselle was sporting her iconic uniform of tweed suit, chain belt, quilted handbag and camellia pinned on her hat but this time she brandished a French flag in her right hand and the distinctive Japanese flag in her left. The gesture was defiant and, by the end of the über brand’s three-day trip, could have been viewed as "we conquered Tokyo" triumphant. Clever Karl and clever Chanel for using the Coco image on all the invitations for the numerous events which included The Little Black Jacket photographic exhibition, a repeat performance of last January’s haute couture show but extended by a double-sized audience, a lively Lagerfeld press conference, the opening of their their pop-up shop in Omotesando and a riverside rave at the First To-Un building in Tokyo’s industrial district.
While Lagerfeld and his posse – Amanda Harlech, Eric Pfrunder, Michel Gaubert, Virginie Viard, and Chanel’s entire studio team – holed up at the Park Hyatt, made famous by Sofia Coppola’s film Lost in Translation; journalists including Another Man senior contributing editor Tim Blanks, stayed at the luxuriously Zen and more central Grand Hyatt. During the day, a fleet of flawless black cars were on call for expeditions to the Asakusa Buddhist temple, the Meiji Shinto shrine, Happo-en’s tea ceremonies and reckless retail therapy in the form of Dover Street Market Ginza, Kiddieland, Sacai, Tokyu Hands – the Japanese department store – and vintage Kimono dealers. But the nights belonged to Lagerfeld and Chanel and became a case of slipping into high heels (or sporting a turban in the case of journalist Godfrey Deeny) and strutting nonchalant allure.
"I love the Japanese culture – I admire their artists like Yayoi Kusana, photographers like Hiroshi Sugimoto and architects like Tadao Ando – and absolutely love the food — Karl Lagerfeld"
Carine Roitfeld was a shining light at the The Little Black Jacket exhibition, which was shown at the G building in Minato-Ku, and revolved around the series of black and white Lagerfeld portraits that she styled for their Steidl tome. “The idea was to photograph different personalities wearing the same black Chanel jacket in order to demonstrate how versatile the item is,” said Roitfeld, dressed in white Chanel from head-to-toe. The photo sessions took place in Paris, New York and the South of France and were refreshing for their lack of diva behaviour – “everyone was so cooperative but then Karl is great at relaxing people and encouraging them to be spontaneous,” she said. After the cocktail party which had led to Sarah-Jessica Parker, Vanessa Paradis, Clémence Poesy, Astrid Bergès-Frisby and models Stella Tennant, Edie Campbell and Alice Dellal posing in front of their portraits, there was a swift exodus to the Park Hyatt’s New York Grill for a sit-down feast. Lagerfeld dazzling in diamonds and Dior Homme felt happy to be in Tokyo. “I love the Japanese culture – I admire their artists like Yayoi Kusana, photographers like Hiroshi Sugimoto and architects like Tadao Ando – and absolutely love the food.”
Parker, on the other hand, proved to be as equally taken by the Japanese fauna and flora. The next night, when strolling through the Shinjuku Gyoen National garden to reach Chanel’s couture show, she continued to stop and take snaps of trees, plants and pink cherry blossom. “This is my fourth trip to Tokyo and I keep on discovering different and fascinating elements,” Parker admitted. Her demure front row appearance – the American actress pinned her hair in a bun and wore a bibbed couture dress – played in stark contrast to Alice Dellal whose micro mini barely covered her teeny behind.
Dellal is a newcomer to the Chanel fold and Lagerfeld defines enchanted by the privileged punkette who he describes “as beautifully brought up and thoroughly modern at the same time.” For the penultimate event – the opening of the ephemeral boutique, which delicately displayed looks from the Oceanic spring 2012 ready-to-wear collection – Dellal wore a Chanel lace dress which she stressed with a cheeky smile had been “shortened.” During the after hours party which boasted a performance by Azealia Banks and took place in a functioning sugar factory, Dellal sat in the cordoned-off VIP area, along with Paradis and Poésy. “This whole experience has been intense,” Dellal said. Still, perhaps not as intense as the reaction to Lagerfeld’s arrival, which was greeted by an incredible roar from the heaving crowd and a huge round of applause. Earlier in the day, Lagerfeld had announced at the Park Hyatt press conference, how impressed he had been by the Japanese people, with regard to “last year’s terrible tragedy.” “Which other country would have faced that sort of disaster with so much humility?” Lagerfeld had asked. No doubt, many of his Japanese fans had heard his wise words.
The Little Black Jacket: CHANEL's classic jacket revisited by Karl Lagerfeld and Carine Roitfeld, is published by Steidl and will accompany the opening of an exhibition dedicated to it, which will run from 24th March until 15th April 2012 in Tokyo.
Text by Natasha Fraser-Cavassoni