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Tessa talking: my evening with Chanel

It was the most sought after invitation of the decade and quite frankly surpassed all expectations!

Tessa with Paula Reed and Sam McKnight at Linlithgow Palace
Tessa with Paula Reed and Sam McKnight at Linlithgow Palace

When the invitation said ‘Dress warm casual chic’ they meant it. Thankfully I had arrived with a knee length vintage Chanel coat, boots and a fur coat, and one look at The Caledonian hotel lobby in Edinburgh and it was apparent the other guests got it too. I have never seen so many fur coats, oversized Chanel handbags and glamorous ladies in all my life! This was no ordinary queue forming for the chauffeurs to Linlithgow Palace; this was a show in itself.

I have to say my heart was thumping with excitement, especially when we arrived in locked down Linlinthgow! Military tight security led up to a fire lit castle – it was simply stunning!

I couldn’t help but think that having the Scottish Fashion Awards in Stirling Castle for so many years was ahead of its time, after all here was Karl Lagerfeld doing the very same thing. But five minutes in, we witnessed what a real budget can do!

We were seated in the Palace courtyard, in front of the oldest fountain in Scotland I’m told. Purpose built wooden benches on two levels meant that everyone had a wonderful view. As we sipped flutes of champagne and tumblers of whiskey we watched the flashbulbs explode every few seconds. But given their outdoor weather gear it was difficult to see who everyone was. I spotted Chanel Ambassadors Poppy Delevigne, Caroline Sieber and actresses Anna Mouglalis, Zhou Xun and Amira Casar.

It was a few moments before I realised that the comfy cushions we were on top off were in fact our goodie bag – a printed Chanel canvas tote and inside a beautiful tartan woollen throw – which clearly will take pride of place in my couch at home!

So then it began. When Karl said the collection was a “mix of Coco Chanel and Mary Queen of Scots” and represented “the rebirth of her spirit,” he was absolutely right. His love affair of all things Scottish was evident in each and every look.

As the models walked around this romantic wooden floored courtyard, with burning lanterns in the background, it was just magical. Their bejeweled hair by the very talented Scot Sam McKnight was a work of art in itself. Braiding to the back with tall woven bejeweled hives completed the almost punk look - a kind of 21st Century Mary Queen of Scots.

An abundance of tartan, full-length lace skirts, layered with luxurious Argyle knitwear and long snow-white gowns with feathered edges and hand embroidery were on display. We saw tartan berets, full-length cashmere dresses and an enviable array of accessories including sporran bags and whiskey flasks sashaying the hips as the models strode by. It was all about the layering, with bold tartans, elaborate pussy neck bows, and Fair Isle knitwear. The Scottish Fashion Awards Hall of Fame 2012 honoree Stella Tennant opened and closed the show. Her very grand gothic tartan coat, layered with scarves, was majestic even with the flat sturdy boots, which totally befitted this luxurious yet almost punk inspired collection.

Coco would approve of every aspect of this collection, as Lagerfeld’s passion for Scotland and the legacy and heritage the brand has with our nation is now on a global stage. And what an impressive stage it was.

Naturally the guests provided an enthusiastic applause, but the Scot in me wanted to jump up and down and scream when the finale came out. Kirsty Wark and I agreed that at the very least a standing ovation was merited but it’s ‘fashion dhaling’ and one is never too enthusiastic.

Dinner followed in the much talked about glass structures down at the lake. We were escorted through the castle grounds, which were lit with fire lanterns and offered umbrellas – the tickle of rain at this point became irrelevant.

The five course dinner included ‘Salmon cake, seared cookie and cockle cannelloni with marinated herring’, followed by ‘Short rib pottage’ with a main of ‘Assiette of Meat’ that included rabbit, caramelized hog cheeks, sheep cutlet and buck deer and fig sausage’ – not for the fainthearted veggies!

I took it as my duty to table hop afterwards and caught up with old friends like designer Graeme Black, Harvey Nic’s Paula Reed and Sam McKnight. Outside they had a huge fire pit and it was there I caught a glimpse of Amanda Harlech – who took the best-dressed prize – again! If you are doing a ‘warm casual chic’ look, this is how it’s done.

There was dancing to a band (a little too indy for my taste) but Karl was totally enthused with them and then a very cool DJ hit the decks with dance floor classics!

It was the kind of party that you didn’t want to end and I am sure it will be the envy of many other luxury brands as they gasp in wonderment at the budget. Was I disappointed that the rumoured Brad Pitt and Angela Jolie didn’t show face? Absolutely not, this is about much more than celebrity names. Chanel came to Scotland with their grand carousel of magic and truly conquered! King Karl reigns supreme!

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