For more than 20 years, Amanda Sanchez has occupied the rare position of being Chanel's in-house fit model. Now, she is a house ambassador. On the occasion of Chanel's Allure exhibition, Savoir Flair sat down with her to discuss the house's heritage, the definition of allure, and what it's like wearing clothes made by a woman for women.
The qualities of “allure” are ineffable. Allure is a feeling, an attitude, an innate trait – you either have it or you don’t. No one understands this better than Amanda Sanchez, Chanel’s in-house fit model for more than two decades, who was recently appointed as a brand ambassador for ready-to-wear and haute couture. “Allure is an expression of who you are, more than what you wear. It’s very personal. Allure is about confidence,” Sanchez shared in an exclusive interview with Savoir Flair. The many codes of the house supply a visual language of allure, that selfsame confidence that Sanchez touches on.
It is fascinating to witness the codes in dialogue via the work of Gabrielle Chanel, Karl Lagerfeld, and Virginie Viard, but it also proves the cohesion of the house founder’s vision. In Chanel’s traveling Allure exhibition, works from all three designers are stationed together around the outer circumference of the event space. One station bears three interpretations of the camellia, another black velvet, another chiffon, and the codes continue. Sanchez joined Chanel as its in-house fit model in 2001 and has been with the house ever since. Even with her deep knowledge of its designs, she found herself surprised by elements in the exhibition. “The chiffon dress by Gabrielle? I was amazed,” she enthused. “I have seen so many outfits from Virginie that play with transparency. I was amazed to discover that Gabrielle was doing the same. I was also surprised by Gabrielle’s suit with the logos. How modern! And I loved the dress with jeweled straps. It was so feminine. This kind of balance and contrast has been present since Gabrielle – the masculine and feminine.”
Is allure a house code? It certainly feels that way. It is the fil rouge that brings designs from as far back as 1927 to as recent as Viard’s last collection together in the exhibition. And yet, the communication between the designs is radiantly clear. No matter who actually innovated the look, it always broadcasts the Chanel message loud and clear. “If you don't check the dates, it’s impossible to know when it was made,” Sanchez says. It’s true. If you asked me who made the aforementioned dress with jeweled straps, I would have guessed it was from an early 90s Lagerfeld collection. However, it hails from a 1930/31 haute couture collection by Gabrielle. Not a single ensemble was out of time; all of them could be worn today and still look current. In the words of Mademoiselle Chanel herself, “Fashion fades, only style remains the same.”
“I am always amazed at how in my everyday life, I can wear the pieces for every occasion,” Sanchez said. “This idea was so revolutionary at the time. And Chanel has respected that heritage for so many decades. I see how they work and how they prepare the collections. It might sound cheesy, but it feels like a family. I have a very personal way of seeing Chanel. I cannot see it from outside.” But that is because she is uniquely positioned inside the house, Monday through Friday, on a daily basis. She tries on every single piece of the collection and gives feedback on comfortability. She demonstrates in front of the design team and Viard how the clothes look in motion. She is as intimately acquainted with Chanel as it gets, and she has seen the house transform over the years, or as she puts it, “perpetually evolves.”
The Viard era is close to her heart. The house’s current Creative Director, whom Lagerfeld once proclaimed to be his “right and left hand,” is one of the few women at the head of a global luxury house. This makes a difference, in Sanchez’s perspective. “It’s a woman designing for a woman,” she explains. “She knows what a woman wants to wear. It’s very real how Virginie dresses women. Even during the shows, she pays attention to which model wears which outfit. She even accessorizes the looks according to the model’s personality.”
Viard is also the first person from the Chanel team that Sanchez met on her first day as an in-house fit model (at that time, Lagerfeld was the Creative Director). “When I first arrived, it was beautiful to try the outfits on in the ateliers and see how the [design team] works. It was so new, but they made me so comfortable. Then, I ended up walking the show. It was so impressive. It was a beautiful experience. Season by season, they kept asking me to stay." As her relationship with the house evolved, eventually, they stopped asking. "I didn’t even dream that I would stay this long," Sanchez confessed, "but it felt really natural. And then I never left.” Sanchez’s place at Chanel is as firmly a part of its heritage as its LBDs and tweed suits.
Over the years, she has witnessed Chanel’s most awe-inspiring moments from the inside. Although you might guess that any one of its magnificent sets – from functioning waterfalls and rocket ships to supermarkets and art galleries all built within the Grand Palais – might be her favorite, her choices are actually quite emotional. In discussing her favorite sets and memories of the shows, Sanchez lists three, “The first is the first show I walked in 2002. It was pink and so delicate. Because it was my first one, I have a very strong attachment to it. [The Cruise 2016/17 show in] Cuba was so beautiful and emotional. When the show was about to start, it began raining. And then it stopped when the show started, and the light changed, and the music started. It was amazing. Afterward, it rained again, and everyone stayed late dancing in the rain. Then, there is Virginie’s first show [Cruise 2020]. That was a very strong emotional moment for all of us. We knew that she was the one, and we were there to support her. We were so proud of her. We clapped more behind the scenes than the audience [did] in front. We were part of it with her.”