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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 19 September 2018

Snap. Do Chanel and Dior know something we don't?

A glance at the couture collections of the world's two greatest fashion houses reveals a marked similarity. The question is: are they trying to tell us something?

Left, Look 4 from Dior haute couture for autumn/winter 2017. Right, a Chanel autumn/winter 2017 creation during Haute Couture Week in Paris. Courtesy Dior; Patrick Kovarik / AFP
Left, Look 4 from Dior haute couture for autumn/winter 2017. Right, a Chanel autumn/winter 2017 creation during Haute Couture Week in Paris. Courtesy Dior; Patrick Kovarik / AFP

Is it me, or did the two behemoths of French fashion just present the same look on their respective couture runways? Of course, we are not saying they were identical, but when boiled down, the two looks were saying exactly the same thing.

During Haute Couture Week in Paris, both Chanel and Dior presented grey, masculine, below-the-knee coats, in heavy fabrics more commonly associated with men's suits, finished with sensible shoes and hats.

If fashion can be argued to be a glittery litmus paper of society, reflecting the mood of our times, then it follows that upheavals in the money market, high rates of unemployment and political leanings will be reflected, too. Things are folded back to us via long or short hemlines, dull or bright colours, and even in whether the necklines that fashion houses offer are open or covered. So, when two big brands both arrive at the same look at the same time, it may be time to sit up and take notice.

Both Chanel and Dior believe that the times call for austere wool coats, worn as a protective outer layer, using the same practical, make-do grey. In fashion, grey is most often the colour of compromise, rather than chic. The midpoint between impractical white (think of the dry-cleaning bill) and safe black, grey is the colour that lurks in the shadows. However, according to both Chanel and Dior, it is the colour we will all be wearing moving forward. Likewise, hats are normally either frivolous (think feathers) or practical (they keep the rain off). In this instance, both houses have given us hats with semi-practical rims in sturdy wool.

So, does this mean we are about to head into a period of austerity, where belts will need to be worn even tighter than those at Dior? Should we brace for a downturn that means we have to bundle ourselves in warm layers à la Chanel? What fallout awaits that requires us to protect ourselves from neck to knee, while covering our heads?

Or perhaps, as a fashion journalist, I am reading too much into this sartorial coincidence. With the oversized cut of the Dior coat, in particular, perhaps it just means that the new iteration of a pair of boyfriend jeans is, in fact, the boyfriend coat. Either way, comfort clearly comes first.

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