Kaia Gerber

Above: sixteen-year-old Kaia Gerber in a SS18 Chanel handbag advertisement. Credit: Karl Lagerfeld.

Kaia Gerber's Stare

Chanel (a fashion brand) creative director, eighty-four-year-old Karl Lagerfeld, has recently chosen sixteen-year-old Kaia Gerber to represent the label. He shot her in Gabrielle Chanel's Paris apartment for the SS18 handbags advertising campaign. It must be assumed that Gerber appears as a carefully selected "face of the times." So what can be deduced (SOED: infer; draw as a logical conclusion; derive by a process of reasoning) from this choice of model?

The model is clearly very young--she is in fact a child. This is unsettling: it is odd (and inappropriate) to use a child in an effort to sell handbags to wealthy adult women (a Chanel bag is around £3000-£5000). The atmosphere pervading the scene is rife with the taint of perversity and decadence--an elevated and rarefied climate in which ordinary morality seemingly does not apply. (A space in which ordinary honest-to-goodness financial planning is rendered tawdry and irrelevant.)

My impression is of a gaze that looks straight past me, or more precisely, looks straight through me. The model's look-back is not seductive or alluring. No attempt is being made at flirtatiousness. What is offered is a blank stare. In fact, the entire face appears as an expressionless mask. There is a flattening of affect--no emotion is portrayed or offered. The overall impression is of a face, and a gaze, that has been emptied out of all connotation and nuance. It is a face that is incomprehensible (SOED: unable to be understood; unintelligible; beyond the reach of intellect or research), unfathomable.

(2 May 2018)