Bonjour Bombay, Paris Ko Dena Pyar

That’s precisely how I think Karl Lagerfeld approached his latest Métiers d’Art PF12 collection for Chanel, entitled Paris-Bombay.

Chanel Métiers d'Art PF12 Paris-Bombay Show Invitation on Exshoesme.com
An invitation fit for modern maharanis.

He said hello to Bombay in French. And Bombay replied, give my love to Paris.

Karl Lagerfeld with Stella Tennant on the Chanel Métiers d'Art PF12 Paris-Bombay Collection Runway on Exshoesme.com
Stella was an interesting choice of runway companion for Karl, given her roots in British aristocracy.

The collection was a restrained dance amongst the two historic cities. And history was such a part of this runway story. First, there is the political history. Karl chose Bombay, not Mumbai, the city’s Marathi name, which was restored in the mid-’90s. The name Mumbai is said to have come from Mumbadevi, a goddess worshipped by the Kolis and sometimes called Mumba. The “ai” comes from the Marathi word for mother. The original colony of seven islands was called “Bom Bahia” (meaning ‘good bay’) by Portuguese settlers in the 16th Century, and anglicized to Bombay when King Charles II of England received it from his Portuguese father-in-law, who provided the colony as part of a larger dowry (!) with his daughter, Catherine of Braganza.

There were so many references to the British influence in India in this collection. First, there was the lavish setting for the show.

Chanel Métiers d'Art PF12 Paris-Bombay Collection Background Set on Exshoesme.com
Chai shai, Chanel, shanel anyone?

The Grand Palais was transformed into a high tea room complete with pastries and tea – was it chai or Darjeeling, I wonder? And were there petit fours as well as petite pakoras, done Parisian style? Was it a display of riches, not to be touched – or all consumed? The collection was certainly all-consuming.

There were references to the uniforms of Mughal Empire chowkidars.

Wooden Chowkidar Figurines, Darban on Exshoesme.com
Wooden figurines of chowkidars – or gatekeepers.
Chanel Métiers d'Art PF12 Paris-Bombay Collection Mens White Nehru Jacket, Turban and Silver Sash on Exshoesme.com
Chanel’s modern-day chowkidar – ready to defend style to the bitter end. That jingling belt, however, may not make for the quietest of evening patrols.

These ancient gatekeepers strapped rifles along their sides. Maharajas would often don elaborate jewelled weaponry in their portraits – for ceremonial purposes only, of course. Lagerfeld combines these two elements and transforms them into an encrusted purse strap. It will undoubtedly be the accessory of the season for the mod maharani set.

Chanel Métiers d'Art PF12 Paris-Bombay Collection Jewelled Purse Strap Detail on Exshoesme.com
These jewelled-strap bags will likely be the best sellers in this collection.

Uniforms are not new to Karl – he’s worn a variation of the same one for years. It is like an armour of his own, n’est-ce pas?

I loved this ivory variation of the Chanel suit uniform – a play on ancient armies, too. You can see this heroine trekking through the sands of Jodhpur. And you know, they are the reason this is number one on my PF12 shopping list. You had my attention at Jodhpur, Karl.

J’adore how the length of the jacket takes your eye to the line of the jodhs. And I have always, always mixed my Indian jewellery with Western tailoring – it shines its brightest then.

Chanel Métiers d'Art PF12 Paris-Bombay Collection White Jodhpur Suit with Jewelled Sash on Exshoemse.com
These pants were born in India, in where else – Jodhpur.

The tailored shirts recall army officers from the British Raj with the wider ties, a cravat of sorts, with a healthy hint of that Chanel insouciance thrown in. Quoi? I juste poot zis togezer – like zat.

Chanel Métiers d'Art PF12 Paris-Bombay Collection Shirt, Tie, Skirt and Spats on Exshoesme.com
Chanel’s classic black and ivory combination. Kind of like pink and ferozi (turquoise) in India.

The longer jackets echo Mughal rulers, but aren’t dripping with diamonds.

Maharaja Pratap Singh of Orrcha, 1903 on Exshoesme.com
When it came to the old-school maharaja set, more was always more.

They are Lagerfeld’s comment on a modernized view of that maharaja history, I think. The layers are still there – just simplified, a touch.

Chanel Métiers d'Art PF12 Paris-Bombay Collection Grey on Grey Beaded Jacket on Exshoesme.com
Very moi – I adore the grey on grey beading and the idea of pairing a heavy jacket with casually cut trousers in a luxe fabric. Dressed, but so easy. Okay, this might be number one on my list WITH the jodhpur suit.
Chanel Métiers d'Art PF12 Paris-Bombay Collection Tweed Long Jacket with Pearl Embellishment on Exshoesme.com
Pearls – big in Indian and Chanel history.
Chanel Métiers d'Art PF12 Paris-Bombay Collection Pearl Belt Detail on Exshoesme.com
Layering on the strings.
Chanel Métiers d'Art PF12 Paris-Bombay Collection Pearl Pocket Detail on Exshoesme.com
Another take on layering.

There is more British history here, too – I see King Arthur as well as Patiala Saab.

Chanel Métiers d'Art PF12 Paris-Bombay Collection Long, Grey Tweed Coat on Exshoesme.com
This recalls a different sort of chain – chainmail.

Maharaja Shivaji Bhonsle’s Maratha Empire defeated the Moghuls in the early 1700s, after 27 years of war. This Chanel collection has visual references to each, in my opinion.

That’s a lot of warrior and uniform commentary in one collection.

Chanel Métiers d'Art PF12 Paris-Bombay Collection Fringed Scarf, Tunic and Peg Leg Pant on Exshoesme.com
Fringe benefits: the perfect travel outfit?
Maratha Soldier on Exshoesme.com
A Maratha soldier.
Chanel Métiers d'Art PF12 Paris-Bombay Collection Sari-esque Dress on Exshoesme.com
Sari-esque at Chanel.
Maratha Soldier with Horse on Exshoesme.com
They may have been soldiers, but they weren’t lacking, sartorially speaking.
Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj and his army by M. V. Dhurandhar on Exshoesme.com
Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj and his army as portrayed by painter M. V. Dhurandhar.
Chanel Métiers d'Art PF12 Paris-Bombay Collection Floor Length Coat and Jewels on Exshoesme.com
This floor-length jacket festooned with precious metals reminds me of Shivaji Maharaj’s riding ensemble.
Chanel Métiers d'Art PF12 Paris-Bombay Collection Beaded Neckline and Dhoti Pants on Exshoesme.com
Dhoti pants!! Oh Uncle Karl!
Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj on Exshoesme.com
A simpler Maharaja – clah-ssy.
Chanel Métiers d'Art PF12 Paris-Bombay Collection Shirt, Belt and Dhoti Skirt on Exshoesme.com
The gloves and spectator spat boots had henna detailing. They will cool you down, indeed.

There was also a Maratha Empire state of mind in this ensemble, for example. It echoes Shivaji’s pink and gold threads.

Portrait of Maharaja Shivaji Bhonsle on Exshoesme.com
Portrait of Maharaja Shivaji Bhonsle.
Chanel Métiers d'Art PF12 Paris-Bombay Collection Shirt, Belt and Pink and Ivory Suit on Exshoesme.com
Every second girl in the Motherland is nicknamed Pinky. I wonder why…
Detail of Portrait of Maharaja Shivaji Bhonsle on Exshoesme.com
It was all about the details.
Chanel Métiers d'Art PF12 Paris-Bombay Collection Gold and Pink Suit on Exshoesme.com
And…it still is about the details.
Chanel Métiers d'Art PF12 Paris-Bombay Collection Gold and Pink Dress on Exshoesme.com
The navy blue of the Motherland, paired with a slippery gold churidaar.

And if you think the influences stemmed only from male warriors, how could you doubt Karl? You know he loves strong women. The sari-esque dress above reminded me of the style of the Rani of Jhansi, who tied her sari to one side, in battle. Jhansi was a state within the Maratha Empire and Lakshmibai became its ruler after the death of her husband, the Maharaja of Jhansi, in 1853. While many of us speak of it as a pipe dream, she really did run an Empire and became a symbol of the resistance to the British East India Company. At the tender age of 22, she fought as a key player in an initial rebellion on India’s War of Independence in 1857. She died in battle in 1858 – or so the story goes. She was said to have done so with style and beauty – until the very end.

Lakshmibai, Rani of Jhansi on Exshoesme.com
Lakshmibai, Rani of Jhansi – the queen of resistance against the British Raj.

Chanel showed how one can look fiercely feminine today, fighting the inevitable battles that a woman has to contend with. She still needs a bit of hardware to take it all on, doesn’t she?

Chanel Métiers d'Art PF12 Paris-Bombay Collection Tunic and Skinny Pant with Web Overlay on Exshoesme.com
Karl takes a classic kurta and churidaar suit and adds a Chanel touch and a layer of mesh armour.
Chanel Métiers d'Art PF12 Paris-Bombay Collection Dress, Coat and Multiple Belts on Exshoesme.com
This belt, to me, recalled the Rani, in all her glory – while the jacket hints at the broad shoulders she needed to have, to carry the weight of an entire empire on them.
Chanel Métiers d'Art PF12 Paris-Bombay Collection Gold Flat Ghungroo Sandals on Exshoesme.com
Ghunghroo chappals – or sandals with little bells – are always perfectly matched with a skinny pant, which was derived from the humble churidaar pajama.

I’ll continue this story in part two, and look at the more recent historical influences in this collection.

It’s quite the journey, no?

[Update Dec 17th: Part Deux is now up.]

Images: Original images for 1, 2, 5-7, 12-13, 19, 27, 32 by Yannis Vlamos for GoRunway.com via Vogue.com, modified by moi; 3 courtesy of Chanel; 4. chowkidar figurines from Hindustan Traders; Original runway images 8, 10-11, 14-15, 20-21, 23, 25, 28, 30-31 from Elle.com, modified by moi; 9 Pratap Singh photo via SFGate.com; 16, 18-19 Maratha soldiers and Shivaji and Lakshmibai images from Wikipedia; Shivaji in pearls source; 24, 26 Shivaji in pink source.

Historical verification via British Library; MumbaiNet; Wikipedia; Kenny Easwaran – Berkeley; Prof. Frances Pritchett, Columbia University

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  1. January 26, 2012
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