Making her debut for Chanel’s resort 2020 show yesterday in Paris, incoming designer Virginie Viard showed her history as Lagerfeld’s chief collaborator and right hand woman of more than 30 years, presenting a collection which was in many ways a tribute to her former boss’s best work. Noticeably lighter and a little more relaxed (those tweed jackets had room to move), Viard flexed her creative license muscles marginally, but Lagerfeld’s presence was felt with every new entry; a ‘80s-inspired shoulder, a cinched waist, a chain belt… And, as the New York Times reported, when Viard took her place at the end of the show, she had tears in her eyes.
It was, without a doubt, a transition show that proved, no, spectacle and performance aren’t going anywhere. They might have been Lagerfeld’s signature, but now the extravagant sets and themed runways are just another part of Chanel’s DNA.
The resort show, which was held in the classic Grand Palais, was — notably — transformed into a railway station. Perhaps a metaphor for movement, change and transformation, the clean and calm atmosphere was a contrast to the usual pomp and OTT decadence that previous resort shows have exhibited. The life-size cruise ship first springs to mind.
The clothes themselves were careful and considered, as is Chanel’s norm. Practical, utilitarian separates in shades of brown, teal and slate opened the show, followed by a collection of knitwear emblazoned with Chanel logos. Styled with white Bermuda shorts, it was the sort of French Riviera outfit we’ve come to know and love from the brand.
Bows were an ongoing theme, with Viard affixing them to the front of jackets, on business-like shirts and pinned, lapel-style to cocktail dresses. Oversized and statement-making, they couldn’t have been missed.
It was an overall pretty and feminine collection. Made by a woman for women, in a sense of knowing that these clothes are investments and statements all at the same time. Her nods to pocketing, wide legs and boxy jackets weren’t just coincidence. A Chanel woman might be classic, but she’s still looking to embrace and interact with some of the season’s biggest trends — utilitarianism and oversized tailoring among them. It’s just done in a subtle, French way that Viard seems to intuitively gravitative towards.
So while it might be a fresh start for the brand and a new chapter for Viard, if this collection is anything to go by, it’s proof that maybe Lagerfeld and Viard aren’t all that different — they did work together for three decades, after all — but that Chanel, unlike so many storied houses, might just continue being, well, Chanel. Why reinvent the wheel when you are the wheel?