The day before presenting her Chanel resort collection on a sandy runway slicing through the pebbles of the Hotel Monte-Carlo Beach, the brand’s artistic director Virginie Viard was in a nostalgic mood. As she garlanded her models in jewelry dripping with gilded dolphins and sea shells in the cavernous space of the hotel’s poolside Art Deco ballroom, Viard recalled many happy moments spent with Karl Lagerfeld in the monied, minuscule principality where he maintained an apartment and leased the extraordinary Belle Epoque villa La Vigie. It was on the terraces of this villa that Viard remembered Lagerfeld shooting Linda and Christy in the iconic sequin scuba jackets from his spring 1991 collection. “That was very funny,” she recalled, “I adore La Vigie. At the end I was here every year: for the Bal de la Rose, with Karl, Caroline, Charlotte, for shootings… We would always go to Rampoldi, Karl’s favorite restaurant.” It was those memories of Princess Caroline and her equally beauteous daughter Princess Charlotte that infused the spirit of the collection, as well as a playful take on what else Monte Carlo means to the designer – “the casino, Helmut Newton’s girls, the car races… we like to play with all the cliches!” As Viard added, the inspiration drew on collective memories. Sofia Coppola, for instance, who filmed the resort collection with her brother Roman this season, remembered a family trip to watch Ayrton Senna race in the 1992 Monaco Grand Prix – “noisy, glamorous, exciting!” said Coppola – when they were all invited to stay at La Vigie.
Thinking of those races by way of Charlie’s Angels, Viard dressed her girls in a racing driver’s all-in-ones and mechanic’s overalls, although these were sequined and, perhaps, designed as trompe l’oeil jacket and pant combinations. There were silk prints of waving starter flags fashioned into drifting chiffon skirts to graze the ankles, and tweeds woven from images of massed cars on the tracks, abstracted on the loom into a shimmer of asphalt gray and brilliant primaries. And for purses, how about an adorable mini full-face driver’s helmet? Sure to be high on the Chanel addict’s must-have list. There are also wrestling shorts, biker jackets, cricket sweaters, and tennis rackets if you are so inclined. The Helmut Newton inspiration, meanwhile, meant some sexy attitude in the shirt dresses slouched off a shoulder and a plethora of short shorts and minis that brought with them the promise of summer. The wonders of the 19M ateliers of craftspeople were reflected in touches like the bouquets of beautifully crafted silk flowers, an evening slink bristling with feather fronds (both supplied by Lemarié), and witty t-shirts sequined to suggest racing driver’s tops (sleeves branded with linking Cs), or scattered with pretty floreate embroideries by the storied houses of Lesage and Montex. “It’s very inspiring to be here,” said Viard, looking across to the pool and the Mediterranean waters to the high rise metropolis rising up the hills beyond, “It’s easy.” Just like Viard’s breezy collection and her uncomplicated vision for dressing today’s Chanel woman.
With Virginie Viard, you can always predict what the Chanel collection will be like: quintessentially Chanel. For autumn-winter 2022, the designer celebrated the brand’s historical love for tweed, the signature fabric of Chanel and a timeless part of its heritage. “Devoting the entire collection to tweed is a tribute,” Virginie Viard said in a statement. “We followed the footsteps of Gabrielle Chanel along the River Tweed, to imagine tweeds in the colours of this landscape.” Her invitation arrived in a large box covered in tweed with matching press material inside. Inside her venue – the Grand Palais Éphémère on Place Joffre – Viard followed suit, swathing walls and chairs in the founder’s trademark material. Viard flexed her tweedy muscle in every garment and accessory type under the Scottish sun, imagining a runway version of what Gabrielle Chanel might have worn on “her walks through the Scottish countryside where she would gather ferns and bouquets of flowers to inspire the local artisans for the tones of tweed she wanted.” With all those fabric fibres covering every inch of the Chanel surroundings, you’d be tempted to call it a woolly affair, but there was no doubting Viard’s intentions. Oversized coats, magnified shooting jackets, and voluminous tailored trousers evoked a borrowed men’s wardrobe she attributed to Gabrielle Chanel’s relationship with the Duke of Westminster. “There’s nothing sexier than wearing the clothes of the person you love,” Viard said. Eventually, the collection relocated from the Scottish Highlands in the 1920s to London in the 1960s, and the Great British youth culture’s appropriation of those heritage codes. Viard interpreted that moment in a wardrobe fairly true to the decade’s codes and styling, generating a strong sense of retro seen through a contemporary lens. It materialised in little skirt suits in tweed, figure-hugging ladylike jackets and knee-length coats styled with thick hosiery and wool-on-wool knitted accessories. Linking to her Beatles soundtrack, Viard said she was thinking of “very colourful record covers” from the period. Often, the collection seemed to have a tweed-covered foot in the 1980s as well, where voluminous blousons, harem-cut track pants, and knee-length skirt suits felt at home. Some looks were better, some worse (especially the eveningwear), but in overall, this was a proper and very timeless Chanel collection.
Chanel‘s spring-summer 2022 couture collection was as predictable as Virginie Viard‘s description of it: “it’s a summer collection, so it’s very fresh, even with a lot of embroideries. I was inspired by the ’20s a little – the feathers, the fringe.” Well, nothing ground-breaking – this collection isn’t for the ones who seek haute-novelty. To set the scene, Viard reached out to the artist Xavier Veilhan whom she met at the home of their mutual friend, musician Sébastien Tellier. “I always wanted to work with him because he did something for Chanel [fine] jewelry 15 years ago in Place Vendome, a great installation,” Viard said. “I love his work and I needed someone to work with for the sets – the way Karl did. Me, I can’t do that! He loves Constructivism, that kind of thing which is so Karl!” she continued. “In fact, I found some notes from Karl in Rodchenko and Malevich books that he always gave me – so many books and documents with notes on details that could be used for embroidery and so on. It was always Constructivist with Karl!” Veilhan, who was chosen to represent France in the 2017 Venice Biennale, drew on this century-old, but still revolutionary period in art, for his Chanel set, with its giant spinning discs and sandy walkways, crafted from sustainable plywood and matting in his preferred (and appropriately Chanel) palette of black, white, and beige. The set he created springs from this thought, inspired by 1920s World Fairs and artists like Sonia and Robert Delaunay. The makeup was also inspired by the pre-war era’s avant garde creatives, although the dark circles around some of the models’ eyes looked rather unfortunate. “I like the classic Chanel,” added Veilhan, “and I like sport and it’s funny to think that the Chanel tailleur is something you can wear for playing golf, or riding a horse.” To prove his point, the show opened with Monaco’s Princess Charlotte, dressed in a Chanel jacket, riding the beautiful eight year old Spanish bay horse Kuskus, first in an elegant “collected walk,” then a canter. What about the actual fashion? Sadly, it was the biggest downer of the entire event. That 1920s and ’30s Gatsby mood that Viard discussed was manifested in filmy chiffon and organza dresses with uneven hems, and trailing scarf panels that drifted from the shoulder. Satin evening dresses seemed to be suspended from necklaces and were draped to reveal the back, and tiny beaded gilets could be slipped on to amplify the glamour quotient. All of it looked pretty… but pretty is kind of boring, right?
With a snip of her ribbon-looped scissors, Gabrielle Chanel released women from their corsets and put them in fluid jersey suits and loose chemise dresses. “Nothing is more beautiful than freedom of the body,” she said. With sweeping synergy, this season’s Chanel Métiers d’Art collection by Virginie Viard was equally liberating, with a pinch of denim and CC logo added. Viard invited guests to Le19M, the newly opened building devoted to the workshops of the maison’s artisans, where she presented her most crafts-centric collection within the very same architecture that had informed its cuts and motifs. Named after the arrondissement it inhabits, the triangular Le19M was designed by Rudy Ricciotti whose “concrete thread” façade evokes the intricacy of embroidered haute couture cloth. Viard echoed those lines – as well as elements from the building’s interior – in a collection she called “metropolitan.” The pre-fall 2022 line up is a combination of Chanel’s craftsmanship masters’ work – Lesage, Montex, Lemarié, Lognon, Goosens, Maison Michel, and Massaro – whose painstaking, super time-consuming, beautiful pieces of artisan work are put into the world to contribute to a bigger picture: the full look. Placing these age-old practices in a contemporary context, Viard took that look to the streets – at least those left of the River Seine. Interpreting the Chanel branding through graffiti-like embroidery, she exercised her take on the logomania. A top nestled the double-C among floral appliqué, the same logo was playfully speckled on cardigans and trousers in fluffy silver embroideries, and the Chanel name appeared tagged in multi-colored crystals across the front pockets of a tweed blouson that evoked a sweatshirt. A major Chanel tip: top the tweed outfit with an eternally charming hair bow. It took Viard a while to find her voice at Chanel and make her offerings something more than just riskless sets of the brand’s signatures. Now, the Chanel woman personifies unforced elegance and easy chic fit for contemporary times. And she sure loves gorgeous details!
For spring-summer 2022, Virginie Viard delivered us the pure essence of Chanel – especially the 1980s-slash-90s one. If not for the contemporary models, you could mistake this collection with a 1992 line-up. Back in the day, supermodels came bounding down the high, raised runways exuding joie de vivre as they twirled and vamped for the photographers who had jostled for prime position, not only in the mosh pit at the end of the runway, but all along its length. Viard wanted to replicate that ambience, and she succeeded. “I used to love the sound of flashbulbs going off at the shows in the ’80s,” the designer recalled in the press notes. “I wanted to recapture that emotion.” Viard attempted to channel that energy and joy in a collection that not only referenced the era in the clothes, staging, and accessories (purses shaped like N°5 bottles; piratically flared Louis heels), but even the soundtrack: George Michael’s anthemic “Freedom! ’90” – in a contemporary cover version by Christine and the Queens – got the models in the party spirit. At the end of the raised runway, for instance, the photography duo Inez van Lamsweerde and Vinoodh Matadin, now deeply enmeshed in the Chanel world, played old-school show photographers, snapping the models who stopped to pose and preen for them and seemed to be having the time of their lives, flashing smiles and flicking hair rather than assuming the habitual look of sulky disdain. The show also opened à la Karl Lagerfeld – who sent shock waves when he put Chanel-branded underwear as outerwear on the runway for spring 1993 – with a black-and-white sequence of briefs, swimsuits, and sports bras, occasionally veiled in spangled black net pants or shown with above-the-knee skirts. During an accessories fitting a couple of days before the show, Viard pointed out the crocheted effects she had worked on with braid company Bacus, and the spin on the bright spring pastel tweed suits – think of Chanel-clad Naomi, Linda, and Carla, shot by Steven Meisel for Vogue, March 1994 – that she had given the twist of a longer skirt or jacket flap in back, suggesting a traditional tailcoat. “Karl was always doing fake jeans,” recalled Viard, shuddering at the memory. “In the ’90s they always seemed to be with pink tweed – ugh! For me it was horrible then, but now j’adore!” Her own reimagined denim propositions this season included a pretty, summery deck-chair ticking stripe cut into stiff little 1960s-looking dresses with bold bands of black sequins, creating the trompe l’oeil illusion of a classic Chanel cardigan suit, and charcoal denim wafted with a butterfly print. Those butterfly wings were amplified as prints on drifting chiffon pieces that swirled as the girls twirled, providing another charming throwback to a moment that celebrated the happiness the fashion flock is feeling in a season of cautious reemergence and optimism.