Many critics are really tough on Virginie Viard. Ok, sometimes some of the styling sucks. There’s too much of CC logo on her designs. But then, I can’t remember the time when the Chanel woman felt so liberated. Viard creates intimate, personal fashion for a brand with a format this big that sometimes her vision gets trapped or misunderstood. However, her autumn-winter 2020 collection was her most confident outing yet. “Freedom!” declared the designer backstage. Viard explained that she was talking about the sort of wind-in-the-hair freedom that a horse rider feels as their steed bounds through the landscape. That idea of liberation translated into a collection of unforced, woman-friendly pieces that embraced the house codes at the same time that they reinforced Viard’s own pragmatic instincts for comfortable, no-nonsense glamour. Viard took her inspiration from a 1980s photograph of Karl Lagerfeld and his sometime muse Anna Piaggi, both dressed in the height of Edwardian-revival finery. In that image, Piaggi is shrouded in a veiled Death in Venice hat, and Lagerfeld wears a morning-dress-stripe jacket and vest, a floppy black silk cravat, jodhpurs, and a pair of sturdy riding boots – an image that for Viard represents “strong romance.” Viard reinterpreted Lagerfeld’s chunky-heel boot and styled it with every single outfit in the collection, from a thickly knit cardigan worn with a cropped white cotton evening dickey and micro shorts to liquid black velvet evening gowns. The collection didn’t have 100+ looks (which was a big relief), the setting was minimal, and it all felt consistent, yet easy. Some girls came out in pairs or groups of three, and it was refreshing to see them smiling and chatting to each other like friends, wearing unpretentious clothes that seemed to have stepped right out of their wardrobes to make sense for modern lives.
Collage by Edward Kanarecki.