On the last day of Paris Fashion Week spring/summer 2023, Chanel presented a collection that was “very elegant, very pure, very Chanel”. From the cinematic inspiration to the sustainability drive at the heart of the house, Anders Christian Madsen delivers five things to know.
It was intrinsically Chanel
Since she took the helm at Chanel, Virginie Viard has established a certain element of surprise at the house. Within the respectful frames of Chanel, she is not afraid to depart from the direction she set the previous season and go down a very different route, changing the mood, silhouette and atmosphere of her shows and collections. But this season’s proposal felt intrinsically, timelessly Chanel. Retained in a mostly black and white palette – with forays into muted pastels – it chose the tweed suit as its focal point, allowing it to become a kind of blank canvas for different silhouettes that travelled the decades of the 20th century. “It’s very elegant, very pure, very Chanel,” the house’s fashion president Bruno Pavlovsky said before the show.
It was inspired by a film
What purified Viard’s vision was her cinematic choice of reference: Last Year at Marienbad, the stylistically arresting 1961 film by Alain Resnais for which Gabrielle Chanel created the costumes. The film – which follows the aesthetics of the Nouvelle Vague genre – previously served as inspiration for Karl Lagerfeld’s spring/summer 2011 show for the house, which reimagined the film’s baroque garden location in a palatial set with a fountain. Viard’s show opened with a film featuring Kristen Stewart. Shot specially for the occasion, it evoked the atmosphere of Resnais’s masterpiece, which itself mimicked the filmic language of silent movies. In Viard’s contemporary tribute, Stewart talked about the possibilities of the new world in an optimistic monologue that cut a contrast to the fairly dismal mood of this season’s shows.
It was all about precision
“From Marienbad, the movie, to Kristen, it’s the way Virginie feels today about that. It’s her vision of the Chanel woman and her energy today,” Pavlovsky said. “From day one, she was very focused on the looks and the spirit of Marienbad. It’s all about the perfect fit. Everything is perfect, if I may. Each look looks right.” He was referring to how Viard employed the film’s costumes as an investigation into creating a medley of silhouettes that started and ended in the same codes, the same precise tailoring, or languid line of flou. “The films we have seen, those that possess us and those we invent for ourselves, Marienbad, the Nouvelle Vague, the allure according to Gabrielle Chanel, Karl, the night, feathers, sequins, heels: I like it when things get mixed up,” Viard said.
Chanel is focused on sustainability
Behind the scenes, Viard’s reverential, universal approach to Chanel is supported by an insistent focus on sustainability. “It’s about keeping the freedom of the studio, and at the same time, being able to act and execute in a more sustainable way. We have no choice for our future,” Pavlovsky said. “We have to change, but it will be difficult and will take a while to create the same emotion with materials which have no emotion,” he explained, referring to sustainable innovations like mushroom leather. “Leather and fabric are all about emotion. If sustainability makes materials flat and boring, that will be quite a change. So, our job is to ensure that we can be sustainable and convey what luxury is about, which is the emotion of the materials.”
Chanel is going to Dakar
Viard’s next stop will be Senegal where Chanel will stage its Métiers d’Art show in Dakar in December. “We were thinking about it, with Virginie, three years ago. In between we had the Covid and all that. Now it’s possible to go there,” Pavlovsky said. “It’s all about creative energy and Dakar is a creative hub today. We don’t see many of these creative hubs in the world. It’s a very young crowd of artists, craftsmen etcetera, and it’s nice for Chanel to present a collection there, in this kind of energy. It’s not because of our customer. It’s because we want to be part of this energy. It will benefit both Chanel and Dakar.”