Smithonian Magazine, USA

2018
By Amy Crawford
Some Like It Haute

A vintage take on high fashion showcases the beauty of a stitch in time

SINCE IT WAS BUILT for the Universal Exhibition in 1900, the Grand Palais, a soaring ode to glass and steel just off the Champs Élysées, has evoked a particularly Parisian glamour. So when another French icon, the fashion house Chanel, granted photographer Cathleen Naundorf exclusive access to its design archives, she knew the Beaux-Arts landmark would make the ideal setting for her dreamlike images. “It’s glass, it’s steel, it’s light. If you see my camera, it’s the same,” says Naundorf, who works with a vintage 1980s Deardorff and 8×10 Polaroid film, the kind that develops in minutes. Her technique, on display in her new book Women of Singular Beauty: Chanel Haute Couture, reflects the handcrafted opulence of Chanel’s gowns and the Grand Palais itself—while rendering impossible the computer retouching ubiquitous in fashion photography today. When things are made by hand “you feel it,” Naundorf says. “It’s nice to leave the folds and the mistakes, because it’s human.”