virginie viard makes her haute couture debut at chanel
Chanel post-Karl is beginning to shape.
All eyes were on Chanel yesterday as Virginie Viard made her haute couture debut. Would she continue Karl Lagerfeld’s vision? And what exactly is her own vision? Question after question, opinion after opinion. And now Virginie has spoken. It’s a new day at Chanel, and a woman is at the heart of it once again. It goes without saying that Virginie had giant shoes to fill, but she is slowly ushering in a fresh perspective to the biggest couture house in the world. As this show illustrated, her vision of femininity is distinctly different to Karl’s -- and how could it not be? She's a woman designing for women, which is a surprisingly still a minority.
One of the most remarkable things about this show was that it was so much more restrained. There weren’t lashings of costume jewellery, excessively high heels or extreme hair and make-up. The models looked like themselves with fresh faces and slicked hair. There were no handbags, instead, hands were casually placed in pockets. There was none of the kitsch irreverence, bold colours and dramatic embellishment that Karl would toy with each season. Instead it was pared back in the style of Coco Chanel herself, the woman who told us to take the last thing we put on off; that luxury is the opposite of vulgarity, not poverty; that fashions fade, but style is eternal.
So, Virginie sent out perfectly tailored wide trousers (the kind Coco wore in the 30s) with subtly feathered hems and worn with flat loafers. The Chanel tweed jackets came with round shoulders and shorter sleeves. The Chanel tweeds came in dungarees and tuxedos, too. Louche silk déshabillé robes with hints of feathers finished the show with the kind of masculine glamour that Coco pioneered. Though the show was scored with Portishead’s Glory Box and its sensuous repetition of the words: “I just want to be a woman.”
Even the set was notably less grand than previous seasons -- at least by Chanel standards. The Grand Palais was transformed into a library, inspired by Coco’s daytime library on Rue Cambon and Karl’s obsessive collecting of books (he’d buy two of each; one to cut up, one to keep). Virginie is also a self-professed bibliophile. Cue librarian-chic glasses on chains (worn with sleek gowns), vellum-hued buttons on nipped-in double-breasted jackets; layers of paper-crisp organza collars resembling books left open.
"I dreamt about a woman with nonchalant elegance and a fluid and free silhouette -- everything I like about the Chanel allure," Viard said in a statement. Although her vision for Chanel is more austere, it still makes use of couture’s mesmeric wizardry (there was a jacket covered in camellias crafted entirely from feathers). And of course, the Chanel codes are still very much there, but Virginie is re-configuring what about Chanel is relevant to how women want to dress today. It’s not a dramatic departure, but in some ways it’s a radical act.