How hard would you roll your eyes if we said that COVID-19 has changed the way we go about our daily lives? It doesn’t even need to be stated at this point, but when it comes to exactly what those changes are, the details are worth your attention. In the fashion industry, it has had a massive impact on not only what we wear and how we shop, but how we come to experience the collections that brands are putting out seasonally. There is a solemnity to the process now, one that acknowledges the need to strike an intimate chord with consumers by addressing our big scary reality, while remaining optimistic about the future. It’s a tricky tightrope to walk.
In Paris, in-person gatherings are currently forbidden. That means none of the couture collections had guests to witness their walk down the catwalk. “I knew we couldn’t organise a big show; that we would have to invent something else,” Creative Director of Chanel Virginie Viard explains. Instead, the proceedings were captured in film format by Anton Corbijn, and depicted all of the models walking down the stairs of Grand Palais as if they were heading to a bohemian wedding. Although we cannot gather together, humans are innately communal creatures. With all of the restrictions, we never stop hoping for, dreaming about, or referring to the moment when such elegant reunions can start anew.
A family reunion feels fitting for this moment in more ways than one. It was a smart direction for the house, which operates like a big family. Not only is Chanel quietly owned by the Wertheimer family, Viard herself has been with Chanel since 1987, and one of the models in the show, Amanda Sanchez, has been a fit model for the house for two decades.
As if gathering on a delicate summer evening, the close knit squadron of Chanel acolytes came together in soft shades of pink and mint, upholstered on tweed separates that skimmed the lines of the body. Flounce skirts were cut away to reveal peekaboo minis underneath, while other maxi versions were seen in a cascade of multi-colored tulle. Crisp jackets were embellished with a smattering of crystal embroidery and paillettes, allowing them to shimmer underneath the fairy lights of the “wedding reception” arena.
While some couture dresses have put the extra in extravagance, this time around they were more subdued and scaled back – but no less gorgeous. There were inky rainbow-hued versions, white petticoat dresses, and drop-waist ball gowns with massive tulle skirts that were topped with cinched waistcoats. The “bride” for the occasion wore a magnificent long-sleeved, embroidered silk gown with a swishy mermaid skirt. “I’m always thinking about what women would like to have in their wardrobe today,” Viard concluded. When it comes to the clients of Chanel Couture, they have easeful beauty to look forward to once their social cards fill back up.