Lights, Camera, Action. Chanel SS21

I really start to appreciate Virginie Viard‘s vision for Chanel. The spring-summer 2021 Chanel show set, in Paris’s Grand Palais, spelled the brand’s name in giant letters, evoking the iconic Hollywood sign. Did this suggest that creative director Viard was thinking of the movies? “Less movies than actresses,” Viard explained, and particularly the modern life of actresses, from the high production values of the red carpet, to a staged off-duty look whilst getting a Starbucks in the certain knowledge that a paparazzo might be lurking in the parking lot, “the whole process!” Meanwhile, the accompanying movie teasers, produced by Inez and Vinoodh, literally brought Paris to Tinseltown, with the Sacre Coeur nestled proudly in those Hollywood Hills – symbolic of Viard’s marriage of Parisian cool with laid-back Los Angeles style. And of course, Coco Chanel’s love affair with film industry played its crucial role. Coco, who began her career as a performer singing saucy music hall songs, later made over a handful of actresses in her own image, just as she did with such beloved models in her in-house cabine as Marie-Hélène Arnaud and Jackie Rogers. The designer, for instance, transformed Romy Schneider into a baby-faced version of herself, and Luchino Visconti immortalized Schneider’s new look in his 1962 short movie Boccaccio 70. Chanel herself is even said to have found the new stage name for the Nouvelle Vague actress Anna Karina. Viard, who has all these references at her fingertips, is also drawn to femme fatale Jeanne Moreau in Louis Malle’s 1958 Elevator to the Gallows, and she looked to some on-screen Chanel moments in her collection. The show itself felt like a cinematic experience, and the clothes matched that elegant, yet unpretentious ambience. Viard had jumpsuits, flowing gowns and eternal tweeds as she was evoking the real life wardrobes of contemporary actresses using her own cabine of models, including many new French faces and the sophisticated Louise de Chevigny. All of them were encouraged to do their actressy best on the runway. The collection is quintessentially Chanel, nothing overly innovative – but absolutely consistent and reassuring with all its Chanel-isms. Maybe a bit less logos next time? That understated, relaxed, yet chic style Viard does so well, without all the forced decorations, clearly speaks for itself.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

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