Chanel channels Coco with a laid-back twist on classic designs | paris fashion week
The best outfit to face a pandemic? Try a bouclé suit, two-tone low heels and a chain shoulder bag with a double C logo.
In defiance of all business forecasts, Chanel emerged virtually unscathed from two difficult years for the retail trade. The luxury brand’s revenue grew by double digits in the first six months of 2021, the most recent period for which results have been released, and the house expects to return to 2019 levels of profitability soon. Strong demand has led to staggering price increases, with some classic handbag styles now costing 40% more than in the first months of 2020. In these anxious times, it seems a Chanel handbag is the fashion gold ingot.
The late Karl Lagerfeld, who loved big parties and featured rocket launches and surprise concerts in his shows, would surely have made Chanel’s first show of the year a standout event, with enough action sequences and eggs. Easter to fill a Marvel movie. . But Virginie Viard, who took over as head of Chanel three years ago, designs fashion rather than fashion shows.
The sleek, minimalist show set was created by French artist Xavier Veilhan using plywood walkways and inflatable banquettes. A raked sand walkway nodded to racetracks while the uneven mounds for spectators were, a Chanel spokesperson said, inspired by mini-golf courses. A few graphic metal sculptures were turning silently, like wagon wheels or majestic spindles. Guests were required to show proof of vaccination and a negative antigen result on entry, along with N95 masks, a mandatory dress code and social distancing observed on benches.
The show kicked off with Chanel ambassador Charlotte Casiraghi riding around the venue on horseback, marking the second time Viard has featured a horse in one of her shows. Viard quietly brings his Chanel closer to the understated elegance of Coco, but with a dose of 1980s Lagerfeld pomp for fun. Not only was Coco Chanel an avid rider who owned a racehorse, Romantica, but she was also a pioneer in liberating riders from cumbersome riding skirts.
In the 1920s, Chanel designed its own culottes, based on those worn by men but fitted to flatter their shape. She styled her breeches and riding boots with a white shirt and tailored wool waistcoat for a modern, sleek look that helped set a new trend. These nuggets of Coco Chanel’s spirit and energy are to the Chanel shows in Viard what showbiz sets were to those in Lagerfeld.
When models emerged, the first six outfits featured pants, rather than the traditional skirts. A simple navy tweed pantsuit came first, followed by a dressier version of the same look, complete with silver trim and balloon pants. Each look was slightly fancier than the last, but in subtle layers. There was a jazzy caramel tweed, followed by a jacket worn with feathered trousers, then a lavender jacket paired with white culottes with laser embroidery.
Two-tone Mary Jane shoes and simple wide-strap dance dresses brought a 1920s feel to evening wear. Even the bride who closed the show in high fashion tradition looked relaxed in a loose dress without a veil. Viard highlighted as the centerpiece a long dress entirely embroidered by the revered Lesage workshop with “constructivist camellias” in black, white and coral pearls, which she described as “references [which] also belong to Gabrielle Chanel, of course. It’s like a conversation that crosses time.