I sit staring at a room filled with white Chanel bags for the seventh time, wondering if I am getting any closer to meaning. Watching Karl Lagerfeld unveil the Fall-Winter 2010/2011 Ready to Wear Pre Collection in a Godard-esque short has left me in a somewhat bemused. However, once you get over the initial sting of thinking ‘Why aren’t I drinking expensive champagne after a Chanel binge?’, the film opens itself up for a more critical interpretation.
‘Shopping Fever’ is at a very basic level, a portrait of excess and indulgence. Many of these design house shorts (which I too often find myself watching), seem to promote this type of lavishness without economic concern or consequence. Women lie on beds of goose feathers while Swarovski diamonds shower down upon them, and we jump out of our itchy one hundred thread count sheets, and into whatever trendy item it is that we can’t afford. In most cases, these design house shorts promote a lifestyle behind their brand that remains unobtainable to the masses. In Shopping Fever though, what Lagerfeld is doing is a bit different, perhaps even subversive.
Overall, the short comes across as comical, and not just because of my critical, excess-is-silly eye. It is this comedic quality that allows Lagerfeld’s short to be viewed as more progressive, and ‘not just another design house ad’. The sequencing and soundtrack alludes to that of a 1960s suspense trailer; the juxtaposition of this and Dree Hemingway ‘angrily’ clutching her head in her hand, next to overflowing Chanel bags, parodies both the genres of suspense and fashion advertising. A typical suspense trailer offers its audience excitement, dramatics, lies and scheming, normally for some sort of high stakes situation (e.g the world ending). Here, the dramatics are all moulded around whatever could be in that bag (this seasons must-have jeggings, perhaps?). Whatever the bags contain, the viewer knows it is most likely not earth shattering (or even remotely feverish), and the dramatics of the rest of the short come off as comical. Instead of being in a state of frenzied awe and running to our nearest credit card, as most fashion advertisements encourage us to do, Lagerfeld’s piece allows the common viewer to sit back and chuckle at the ‘problems’ of the wealthy. Like a comedy of manners, Lagerfeld is satirizing the behaviours of his top consumers. After my now eighth survey of ’Shopping Fever’, I still am enamoured by a room filled with Chanel goodies, but can do so without jealousy or wanting to break the bank. I relax and begin to feel like good old uncle Karl is giving a wink to the proletariat.
- Casie Brown