In the past, Chanel’s elaborately constructed sets inside the Grand Palais have included a masterfully rendered casino, a shopping market replete with hundreds of Chanel-branded products, a semi-functioning rocket ship, and even a fully functioning waterfall. Since assuming the helm, Virginie Viard has also created beautiful sets including fully realized Parisian rooftops and a wild cloister garden that replicated the one at the Cistercian abbey of Aubazine, a convent where Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel was raised. The sets were necessary for contextualizing the collections, but for Fall/Winter 2020, the grand set was gone.
In its place was a simple mirrored walkway and crisp white stairs for seating. Yet, the absence of spectacle still offered contextualization for a collection themed around the concept of freedom. Free of distraction, free of expectation, free to be you and me. With the stripped-back setting already a surprise, the audience was treated to another as soon as the show started. To open the presentation, Vittoria Ceretti and Rianne Van Rompaey wove their way down the mirrored runway, arms interlocked, chatting away like two young women out for a morning stroll. The appearance of the duo was so casual that it felt mischievous. Paris Fashion Week shows follow a fairly rigid formula for performance, especially at the level of a maison like Chanel. The status quo has been upended. Freedom abounds.
Cropped tops, corsets, and bralettes showed a lot of skin, but there were sophisticated pieces for the Chanel traditionalist as well.
Looks reflected the uninhibited mood of the show right away. Chanel’s classic boucle tweed skirt suits were sliced right up the middle, almost to the crotch or skimming the top of the thighs at ultra mini lengths. Some were rendered in crocheted mesh, while others skipped the jacket top and went straight for the bandeau. Many looks came with a new approach to track pants (with leather versions too), which were trimmed on the side with rows of gold buttons and left open to the knee to reveal the collection’s pirate boots.
Cropped tops, corsets, bralettes, and slit-to-the-thigh skirts showed a lot of skin, but there were sophisticated pieces for the Chanel traditionalist as well. These were impeccably cut long coats, ivory jackets with dramatic feathered sleeves, and long velvet dresses. But before you think this isn’t Karl’s Chanel, we’ll have to stop you. In the early days of Karl Lagerfeld’s work at Chanel, the man did string bikinis (Spring/Summer 1993), miniskirts with cropped tops (Spring/Summer 1995), and other provocative work. You might think of rigid tweeds, camellia necklaces, and pearl-trimmed gowns when you think of Chanel, but you’re only seeing a fraction of what the house has to offer. For Fall/Winter 2020, Viard is inviting you to find a new facet in the prism that is the crown jewel of the fashion world. Free your mind, the rest will follow.