Geek Chic: The Chanel Fall 2019 Couture Library Is Open

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"Books are my best friends." - Mademoiselle Gabrielle ‘Coco’ Chanel

Couture is where craft comes to play, but at Chanel’s Fall 2019 Couture presentation, its typical dalliances with the divine were exchanged in favor of simpler savoir faire. For her debut couture collection for the house, Virginie Viard’s major focus was conservative silhouettes, longline volumes, and surfaces that felt both chic yet simple. It was the smartest Chanel has ever looked – both figuratively and literally. 

Placed in a fantasy version of a library and surrounded by volumes of books akin to the shelves in Gabrielle ‘Coco’ Chanel’s own apartment on rue Cambon, the collection placed major focus on tony tweeds for the book smart woman whose beach reads are more likely by Albert Camus and Marcel Proust than Jennifer Weiner and Liane Moriarty.

Chanel Fall 2019 Couture
Photo: Courtesy of Imaxtree

Kiki Willems opened the show – instead of Vittoria Ceretti or Cara Delevingne, both of whom are often tapped for the honor – in a long, bright bouclé coat. Tweeds, in every texture, color, and cut imaginable populated the runway. There were versions so smooth that they resembled neoprene, while nubbier textures shot through with threaded patterns. Instead of relying on the specialties of the Chanel atelier, details came from design elements like quadruple pockets, flyway lapels, rounded shoulders, scooped necklines, shirred midsections, bolero proportions, and diamond patterns formed from orderly rows of sequins. 

Building toward a finale – where typically we see the clothes become more elaborate – Viard’s ensembles became even more pared down.

Meanwhile, decorative textures played with the eye, tricking it with dimensions that looked flat but were actually 3D on closer inspection. Separates were easier to wear, particularly when it came to those swishy palazzo trousers. Wire-framed eyewear and loafers helped round out the bookish nature of the collection. Building towards a finale – where typically we see the clothes become more elaborate – Viard’s ensembles became even more pared down, amplified here and there with magnified ruffs or an asymmetrical bow structure.

Some of these looks fared better than others, especially in the case of a stunningly simple navy chiffon dress with sheer poet’s sleeves and a black drop-waist gown with an articulated bodice and diamond buttons. And in keeping with the theme of the show, the finale composed of a post-nuptial bridal look that was more suited to a good night’s sleep rather than representing a rendezvous at the altar – easeful, whimsical, romantic. We wouldn’t mind borrowing from this library.

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