Guests at the Chanel show were divided among two pitch-black circular arenas, each dominated by a giant white sculpture of a camellia flower. On each seat lay a fresh camellia, and in the gift bags were items from its No.1 line of sustainably sourced beauty products, in which the star ingredient is camellia.

Sensing a theme here? Virginie Viard’s fall collection was, unsurprisingly, an ode to the camellia, which appeared in every possible guise, from the black leather versions on the collar of a trenchcoat to the fuzzy white flowers sprouting from a black sweater. Lace cycling shorts, glossy track pants, Lurex sweaters and quilted satin jackets featured the brand emblem.

It was all over the accessories, too, from oversize enamel rings to a ball bag with a graphic black-and-white pattern. That went with an Op Art outfit in a grid print that showed a stylized camellia gradually morphing into Chanel’s famed double-C logo: a metaphor for how interchangeable the two have become.

Founder Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel was photographed wearing one pinned to her belt as far back as 1913, and camellias featured in her collections from 1924 onward. Karl Lagerfeld made them a key feature of his designs during his 36 years at the helm of the house, memorably sending out a wedding dress embroidered with 4,000 camellias for his fall 2005 haute couture show.

Viard, who was his righthand woman for three decades, riffed on the theme in one of her first collections, the 2020 Métiers d’Art show, with items including a camellia jacket that has become a collector’s item. Every Chanel camellia, including those on its shopping bags, is made by hand by its historic supplier Lemarié.

“It’s a Chanel code that is outside of fashion, outside of time. It’s a winter flower, too, and this is a winter collection,” Viard said in a preview ahead of Tuesday’s show. “It’s about playing around a theme, but the camellia was really more present in the decor.” 

Her reticence to acknowledge what verged on a one-note exercise was understandable — this was a marketing exercise as much as a fashion statement.

The designer expanded when discussing the more personal elements in the collection, from the handsome tweed coats to the Mod-style vinyl boots that accompanied many of the looks.

“Perhaps it’s because of the tweed, but for me, Chanel is always a little English,” she confessed. “London remains magical to me, even if it’s completely changed. But there’s always a little touch of the Swinging ’60s.”

The collection also nodded to Asia, with the casting of Japanese actress Nana Komatsu in a campaign film that was broadcast on giant screens at the entrance of the venue, and on the runway installations.

Now that coronavirus-era travel restrictions have eased, Chanel plans to stage a repeat show of its 2022 Métiers d’Art collection in Tokyo on June 1.

The short film and look book, lensed by Inez Van Lamsweerde and Vinoodh Matadin, were inspired by “Who Are You, Polly Maggoo?” — photographer William Klein’s 1966 satire of the fashion industry and consumer culture which, ironically, continues to inspire fashion designers today. “I like everything about it – the opening scene, the fashion show, the decor,” Viard said. “Why? Because it’s light. It was a simpler time.”

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