After her graphic black-and-white cruise collection, presented in May, Chanel creative director Virginie Viard was in the mood for color.
Her fall haute couture line, presented in Paris on Tuesday, marked the brand’s first couture show with an audience in 18 months. It could well have been titled “A morning at the museum”: models emerged from the grand entrance of the Palais Galliera in painterly outfits in a palette of vivid hues.
The fashion museum is hosting a major retrospective on Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel, its first since a two-and-a-half year renovation that includes a new basement space for permanent exhibitions, exclusively sponsored by Chanel. Guests sat in the indoor courtyard and peristyle of the 19th–century Italianate building under a blustery sky.
Chanel Couture Fall 2021
The location got Viard thinking about painting, which inspired a wealth of decorative effects.
Sequins glistened like holographic droplets on a lilac tweed suit, while 3D flowers blossomed on a vaporous chiffon dress. She played with textures, dabbing paintbrush-stroke sequins on a top, or pairing an ample tweed coat covered in pointillist metallic embroidery with a pink distressed tulle skirt.
“I wanted Lesage to do some real embroideries for me this season,” the designer said during an accessories fitting at Chanel. “It’s quite impressionistic.”
Her starting point was images of Coco Chanel dressed in historical costumes for masked balls in the 1930s. From there, Viard segued to portraits: Marie Laurencin’s painting of Chanel, and French artist Berthe Morisot as portrayed by her brother-in-law Edouard Manet.
Laurencin’s influence could be felt in the color juxtapositions: pastel pinks and blues with splashes of buttercup yellow, peony red or iris purple. Morisot inspired the black satin ribbons that were attached to the back of models’ mohawk braids, and that punctuated outfits like a minimalist white dress.
Dipping her hand into a metallic pot full of fabric samples, Viard laid a pile of swatches in her lap and began fingering through them. “J’adore,” she exclaimed, showing off a heavy lime green tweed that she used for an oversized coat with linebacker shoulders.
There was a sense of renewed opulence in the wealth of detail and surface embellishment, yet the final sequence of monochrome looks felt the most authentically Chanel, with the sense that they could seamlessly join the vintage creations on display inside the venue.
Standouts included a frothy white column dress with a bodice covered in fabric camellias, feathers and pearls, and a graphic black ruffle-strapped dress that split open to reveal a fringed white hoop skirt.
In terms of romance, the only thing that topped it was the bride: Margaret Qualley in a blush pink dress with a scooped back, smiling under the sequined veil of her pillbox hat. The “Once Upon a Time In Hollywood” star was the face of the collection, also appearing in a preview video directed by Sofia Coppola.
At the end of the show, the actress tossed her bouquet into the crowd, where it landed at the feet of Laura Brown. Betting is open that the editor in chief of InStyle, who is engaged to comedian Brandon Borror-Chappell, will tie the knot in Chanel.
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