Eccentric Girl. Chanel AW20 Couture

Things started looking up for this unusual, digital haute couture season the moment Chanel revealed its gorgeous collection by Virginie Viard. No pointless mega-productions with special effects, just a short video and a proper look-book shot by Mikael Jansson starring Adut Akech and Rianne Van Rompaey. The focus is on the clothes, which are a delight. “I was thinking about eccentric girls,” Virginie Viard said of her autumn-winter 2020 couture line-up. In particular, Viard was remembering Karl Lagerfeld heading off to parties with his sometime muse, the madcap Princess Diane de Beauvau-Craon, who as a teenage debutante got herself an American crewcut to give some punk edge to the pretty but detested pink dress her mother had chosen for her coming-out ball. “Life with her around is the ideal for me,” Lagerfeld said of de Beauvau-Craon when he spoke with Vogue, “because life must never be flat. She gives a light spirit, yet she is deeply spiritual.” Viard wanted to swing to some escapist opulence after last season’s soulful austerity – and because we all need the dream of a grand party right now! Viard was thinking of “things that maybe I would not do in a show – punk hair, fine jewelry.” Those Chanel haute bijoux included yellow diamond lions (Chanel herself was a Leo) and tiaras. The de Beauvau-Craon touch erupts in the form of a short frothy taffeta dress and faille ball skirts or a full-skirted retro cocktail dress of flowering black and white lace spliced with lacquered pink lace – and in punk feather mohawk bangs worn in the hair, and the lace-up court shoes that would have been perfect for dancing the night away in the great 1980s Parisian nightspots Les Bain Douches and Le Palace. As usual in her work, Virginie looks towards the essence of Chanel. Tweed figures large in the collection for day and night: a knee-length tunic worn over boot-leg pants, for instance, or a minidress with the traditional Chanel braid trim reworked in rhinestones. There is more amazing trompe l’oeil in the allover Lesage embroidery of a lean jacket worn with an ankle-length skirt, or in the Emmanuelle Vernoux–embroidered sleeves of a decorous wool ball gown, or the Montex sequin and wool tufts of an off-the-shoulder minidress. Viard provides subtle elegance too –  which I always adore the most in her collections – in pieces that include a sheath of inky faille with bishop sleeves or a solemn evening gown of steel gray silk velvet (my favourite), discreetly dusted with embroidery at the waist and cuff, and jackets with midriffs defined by hand smocking. Viard aptly describes the looks as “casual and grand” – and this is what I call relevant couture.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Balade en Méditerranée. Chanel Resort 2021

Many dreams and plans had to be thrown away to the trash bin due to coronavirus. The Chanel resort 2021 collection was originally intended to be shown on Capri, the heavenly Italian island. Virginie Viard has a hard time with the critics, but I find her work attractive and purely Chanel. She’s focused on the essentials and signatures of the house – making each collection feel truly timeless. So maybe a look-book, photographed by Karim Sadli, works just fine for those clothes. Viard spent lockdown in her French country house, a time, as she says, for “rest and family time,” that was no holiday. In addition to preparing this resort collection (which she had begun before lockdown), Viard was also working on a capsule haute couture offering, which will likewise be presented virtually. Viard returned to Paris and the Chanel studio on May 4, when the city partially reopened, but in the depths of the countryside she was thinking and dreaming, as she told me, about “summer in Capri – or the South of France,” and the kind of destination wardrobe of “easy clothes” that “a sophisticated but also cool girl would want to travel with.” Her proposal includes swimsuits to wear as bodies under cardigan jackets, wide-legged pants, or handkerchief-hemmed skirts, and no-nonsense iterations of the classic Chanel suit or saharienne jackets in cotton tweed. “There are no evening dresses, no heavy things,” says Viard, who proposes instead some day-into-night options including those bathing suits printed with scattered trompe l’oeil Chanel costume jewels and worn with skinny cardigan jackets and wide pants in a fine-gauge knit or bandeau tops embroidered by Lesage with flowering branches of bougainvillea  (the emblematic Mediterranean summer flower) that that can be worn under suits or veiled under sheer black chiffon blouses. No ground-breakers here, but I’m fine with that. It works. Also, I might say that the Chanel team had to have a closer look at Jacquemus and his mediterranean lifestyle for a while – I found echos of that light, playful sensibility in the resort offering with all the volumes, body-revealing cuts and mini-accessories. But the the most exciting thing about this collection is the least visible. Finally, at least some sustainable thinking at a house this big as Chanel. There was a new approach behind the works with supply chains compromised by the pandemic. The collection, as Viard explained to Vogue, was made using “all the fabrics we had in stock – all the buttons, all the galons – we had a shop in the studio, it was so cute!” Moreover, Viard pulled some staple pieces and accessories that are currently available in store, but that haven’t yet been shown in campaigns – among them some denim jeans and a very stylish woven wicker beach basket purse. “I love it,” reasoned Viard, “why would we have to do another one?” A silent revolution is going on in here.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

The Look – Chanel SS20 Couture

In times like this, quarantine and all, I gravitate towards something beautiful, yet profound and calm. Virginie Viard‘s phenomenal spring-summer 2020 haute couture collection for Chanel – inspired by the convent of Aubazine, where Coco Chanel was raised – is an example. For this (another) laid-back Friday evening, I highly recommend you the A to Z video by Loic Prigent which is dedicated to this impressive collection.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

The Choice – Chanel SS96

A few days ago I asked you on my Instagram stories to pick one of your favourite collections ever and I would make a collage with it. Here’s @kalalastrzelbicka’s choice: Karl Lagerfeld‘s spring-summer 1996 collection for Chanel. Months after this collection was shown, Vogue published “Fear of Fridays,” an article that spoke about the tailspin caused by the spread of the casual-Friday concept in business, one that gave rise to a new, more comfortable work uniform built around chinos. Lagerfeld swapped out the preppiness for a laid-back look, added a cropped T-shirt (which was certainly not work appropriate at that time…) and a belt or two, et voilà! Casual chic the Chanel way.

More of your choices are coming in the following days! If you missed the game, you can still write me your favourite collection and I will do the work. Got plenty of time. Culture isn’t cancelled, fashion isn’t cancelled!

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Liberated. Chanel AW20

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.

Monastic. Chanel Couture SS20

I realised one thing about Virginie Viard‘s Chanel. You just can’t go through her collections and instantly have a feeling about it. If you do, you will rather consider it as boring. But when you take a longer moment for each of the looks, you see what’s so special about Viard’s vision for the brand. It’s light, sober, slow, elavating. Virginie Viard’ spring-summer 2020 haute couture presentation was set in a romantically overgrown garden of a cloister, set  miraculously in Paris’ Grand Palais. The setting suggested a key element in Coco Chanel’s legendary story. She was 11 years old when her mother died, and as her father was often away, it was decided that she would be sent to the convent of Aubazine in the remote French region of Corrèze. Here, her unusual situation meant that she was among the girls singled out to wear an austere black-and-white uniform, one that she would adapt through the years to dress the richest and most stylish women of her age. In imaginative retellings of her autobiography, Chanel would refer to the convent’s strict and unforgiving nuns as “aunts.” These women taught the young Chanel to sew and gave her the tools to forge a life as an independent woman for herself in later years. The aesthetic of the convent stayed with Chanel forever. Fully aware of the biographical significance of the convent in Chanel’s life, and to her aesthetic, Virginie Viard made a pilgrimage to Corrèze on a gloriously sunny day last September. “Karl didn’t like those things,” Viard explained backstage.  “He always said, ‘Oh, it’s ugly, ugly!’ But I said to myself, I must do this.” The visit proved inspirational; “I loved it,” Viard recalled, “it was full of charm.” In fact, she was so moved by the cloister’s garden that she immediately decided to recreate it for the evocative decor of the haute couture set in the Grand Palais, creating an enclosure of dozens of antique linen sheets hung up as though freshly laundered by the girls and the nuns to dry in the breeze. The influence of those convent girls and their childhood home threaded through Viard’s collection in subtle ways that showcased the incredible resources of the haute couture. The designer developed a soft, pastel woven-and-sequined fabric to evoke the chapel’s stained-glass windows. The convent’s unique stone floors, with their rough pebbles laid in a grid that resembled quilting, were evoked in trellises of embroidery tracing the shape of the Peter Pan collars. One particularly beautiful example, on a suit jacket of marled stone-colored tweed, turned out in the hand to have been worked with “sequins” cut from chiffon. Many of the skirts, for instance, were paired with exquisite overskirts in filmy tulle that added extra length, but garlanded the lower leg in exquisitely embroidered fragile dandelion clocks, or scattered meadow flowers, or butterflies made from feathers. Add to all this black patent schoolgirl shoes with white ankle socks. Beautiful.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

The 2010s: Karl and Chanel

CHANEL by KARL

Believe it or not – I can’t! – but we’re heading towards a new millenium. So, how do you choose the most important collections, designers and labels of the decade? The ones that made an actual impact in the 2010s? Well, it’s not an easy task. It all began in September 2009 with New York’s spring-summer 2010 shows and ended when the autumn-winter 2019 haute couture shows wrapped in Paris. Few thousands of shows, by the way. There will be 19 posts (that’s really the only possible minimum!) reminding about the best – and if not the best, then strongly influencing – moments in fashion.

Karl Lagerfeld & Chanel.

2019 saw the farewell to the visionnaire, the most prolific, joyous, assertive and energetic designer the world has known – Karl Lagerfeld. Although Lagerfeld worked on many projects simultaneously, from his namesake label to Fendi, it was his Chanel that always excited the most. This is the brand where he left his most expansive legacy. From the fantastic show venues (Chanel shopping centre, Chanel space-rocket, Chanel aquatic world, Chanel airport, the list seems to be endless) to Metiers d’Art locations (Edinburgh! Dallas! Salzburg! Moscow! New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art!) to the fashion campaigns (always photographed by him) to the label’s timeless, never boring, always consistent aesthetic (even if you haven’t been a fan, you should agree with this)… Karl owned Chanel. While the beat goes on with Virginie Viard, every show still feels as if something’s missing. A great loss. His soul is forever alive in the body of work he has left for generations to cherish.

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Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

31 Rue Cambon. Chanel Pre-Fall 2020

Virginie Viard takes Chanel to its (at times clichée) codes. Viard titled her Métiers d’Art show “Paris 31 rue Cambon” for the street where Coco Chanel first set up shop as a milliner in 1910 (“Chanel Modes” at Number 21), and where she later expanded her fashion empire to embrace six additional 18th-century buildings, with her legendary haute couture salons at Number 31. The guests sat inside of Coco’s legendary apartment, XXL-scaled and set up in Grand Palais (there was even the famous mirrored staircase). “I adore the apartment,” Viard said backstage, and she evidently found inspiration in this setting where Chanel retreated from the running of her house and entertained friends. The designer described the collection as “the things we like, a mix of Karl and Chanel—the codes.” Of course, comparing to Lagerfeld’s globe-trotting Méters d’Art fairy-tales – think Moscow, Edinburgh, Texas, the Met in New York – seeing Viard show in Paris felt quite unamusing. Nevertheless, the collection was properly Chanel – elegant, refined, refreshingly minimal, yet far from modesty. The pre-fall collections of Chanel showcase the incredible work of the luxury suppliers of the fashion industry – embroiderers, feather and artificial flower makers, milliners, custom shoemakers – many of which Chanel has acquired to keep them operational and the skills alive. Viard, who directed the Chanel studio under Lagerfeld for decades, has a fine appreciation of what these ateliers are capable of. A bolero jacket with broad feathers overprinted with a shadowy pattern of Chanel’s iconic camellias; a feather blazer worked into a subtle trompe l’oeil plaid; eveningwear kept in the most gorgeous, sorbet ombré colour palette… delightful. Viard proves once again that her Chanel takes a slower approach, one that cherishes the timeless classics and the artisan work. Less Instagram moments, more beauty in the details.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Nouvelle Vague. Chanel SS20

The first model who opened Chanel‘s spring-summer 2020 show, Maike Inga, looked like Jean Seberg from Jean-Luc Godard’s Breathless film with her blond pixie-cut and long-sleeved, red tweed dress. Other models had their hair undone and seemed to be make-up free. The collection’s faux setting – a stereotypically Parisian rooftop landscape with dove grey sky in the background – added up to the mood of French New Wave (‘La Nouvelle Vague’) mood. Virginie Viard‘s first ready-to-wear collection for the brand feels like a Parisian postcard, but comparing to Karl Lagerfeld’s emphasis on creating memorable moments, it’s much more low-key. There’s something comforting about her take on Chanel: it’s simple, not show-y and far from any sorts of excess. At some point, the line-up made you yawn with its monotony – too many nearly identical tweed mini-dresses and Chanel logo prints. The eveningwear lacks spark and excitement as well. My favourite look was the most casual one: a breton stripe top, a matching jacket, high-rise denim pants and flats. Very Chanel. But I wonder whether Viard’s easy, approachable and at times flat vision for Chanel will do.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.