The return of the Chanel aesthetic Karl Lagerfeld has always exceeded the vision of the most fashionable women, and he knows it. But, much like his clothes, he does so in a quietly elegant and perfected way. The Chanel aesthetic has been preserved, nurtured and developed, and it is reaching a peak yet again. ‘Monochrome chic’ is suddenly awash on the catwalk and high street alike – Chanel, Givenchy, Donna Karen and H&M are all basing their current collections on a classic Parisian colour pallet. Unlike seasonal trends, however, the clothes that Chanel first introduced go hand in hand with a traditional lifestyle that will forever be etched into modern culture. Julia Underwood takes a look at a style classic. In 1909, Gabrielle ‘Coco’ Chanel reinvented fashion by quite simply going back to basics. Indeed, some years later she confirmed to Harpers Bazaar that “simplicity is the keynote of all true elegance.” But what arguably gave her a helping hand in her success was the arrival of the First World War. Women were suddenly becoming people of work, and with new roles their clothes had to change. Chanel’s long linen skirts, jersey sweaters and blazers offered the style and comfort that was so desired. To make something so simple become iconic, the quality and visionary aspects had to be extraordinary. Chanel made clothes to flatter the new slimmer, flatter figure of the Twenties. She did not try to turn a woman into an exhibition. The lady who wore Chanel stood up straight, made the most of her best features, and lived a pristine life. Here was a designer who was subtly liberating women, in a way that men could accept. When it came to eveningwear, Chanel’s first popular piece in 1926 was a black evening dress in lace and embroidered tulle. The silhouette and fabrics used became the trademark of all things chic. In fact, it could be said that Chanel invented the ‘little black dress.’ Even now, Lagerfeld’s collections are parallel to the creative vision that was unveiled all those years ago. Coco’s most famous quote put this vision into words perfectly: “For me, black has everything. So does white. They are absolute beauty; the perfect match. Dress a woman in white or in black at a ball and all eyes will be upon her.” Recently, the label Coco Mademoiselle was launched for younger fashion followers. It became apparent that young women were starting to favour a tailored, mature look – girls were seeing the importance of quality and key pieces, rather than quantity.