by Leoni Schwandt
Knitted woollen stockings, earthy sleaze blazers, Edelweiss and Lederhosen.Taking a sneak peek at Chanel’s pre collection AW 15 took me by surprise, indicating that by the end of next summer we are to witness the official consecration of the traditional German leather pants into the world of Haute Couture.
Thought of by many as the sartorial symbol of Germanic heritage, the Lederhosen originated in Bavaria – the German state which made its fame by creating and effectively exporting its image as the world’s beer capital. Munich’s Oktoberfest annually draws in millions of tourists to celebrate, consume enormous sums of alcoholic malt drink, and dress up in elaborately processed animal skin. Originally, the pants were worn as working clothes in a primarily pastoral society, with which a minute sign system evolved to communicate region, age or social rank of the wearer. Over the course of time and with the inevitable effects of globalization, its social relevance decreased dramatically and the garment lost its well established place in Bavaria’s daily dress code.
Today, with beer festivals held from Brasilia to Cincinnati the Lederhosen has found a new, rather exclusive position, en-sheathing the hips of beer-enthused men – and women.
In a late summer recently passed, Munich’s women took to the street and stormed beer tents not in Dirndl, the traditional female dress, but in bifurcated leather. The women’s adoption of the highly gendered pants, sometimes directly paired with concepts of supreme masculinity, marked the re-gendering of the Lederhosen- surely a turning point in a male dominated party culture. But despite the reconfiguration of male and female Bavarian dress (although one assumes it will take another century until men swing around in decorated aprons and bodices), the link of the Lederhosen and the love for beer and group table dancing in smoky tents remains.
I wonder which message Chanel attempts to promote with the new collection, clearly inspired by Bavaria’s dress heritage. The luxury leather for men and women leaves the single-gender appropriation of the pants further behind, but will Chanel’s backstage catering from now serve beer in 1 litre steins to bawling Anna and Karl? Or is Bavaria yet another culture delivering raw material for a new ethnic-chic wave à la Bina Ramani, to be adjusted and modified into the needs of a newly invented tradition?
Cover image available at: http://www.vogue.com/slideshow/5710435/chanel-pre-fall-2015-runway/#44