In the battle of the tweed jackets, Chanel wants you to know it has the upper hand.
The French luxury brand, which squared off last year against Saint Laurent over its use of tweed suits, boldly claimed creative ownership of the material with a show that was an ode to tweed, from the fabric covering the walls, floor and seats of the venue, to Virginie Viard’s winter warmer of a fall collection.
There was no dress code required. The audience was a sea of tweed, and it turns out the material is astonishingly versatile. A woman carrying a small white dog paired her pink tweed jacket with leggings fastened with bows and rhinestone-covered shoes. Another accessorized her Victorian-style floor-length black tweed skirt suit with a matching bag.
After all, fashion’s British Invasion didn’t start in the Swinging ’60s. Setting aside the fact that English designer Charles Frederick Worth was the first Paris couturier, Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel borrowed freely from the wardrobe of her lover, the Duke of Westminster, in the 1920s, going on to make tweed a mainstay of her brand.
Viard’s color palette was inspired by images of the River Tweed in Scotland shot by Inez van Lamsweerde and Vinoodh Matadin. It’s fair to say that even in July, the landscape is drab, the muddy brown river set off by a reddish arched stone bridge. The duo also captured some peach- and lilac-hued sunsets, though one suspects the liberal use of enhancing filters.
Viard used the full gamut of shades, from psychedelic pinks, purples and greens, to earthy tones fit for country walks at Balmoral Castle. In an extra bit of synergy, the soundtrack featured Jonny Greenwood’s moody title music for “Spencer,” the Princess Diana biopic starring Chanel brand ambassador Kristen Stewart that was partly financed by the house.
“There’s an English spirit running through the collection, from ‘Spencer’ to The Beatles,” said Viard, who drew on images of Coco Chanel wearing the duke’s oversize tweed jackets. “When Karl [Lagerfeld] was still here, I paid less attention to the life of Coco Chanel, whereas now, we’re going back to the source.”
Her layered silhouettes mixed tweeds of various weights with richly textured cardigans and sweaters, including one dotted with tweed versions of Chanel’s signature camellia flower. She paired them with rubber boots stamped with a double-C logo, or black kitten-heel slingbacks worn with thick thigh-high socks.
The looks catered to a wide spectrum of customers, ranging from suits with matronly below-the-knee skirts to tomboyish oversize jackets and leather pants; tiny tweed skirts trimmed with ostrich feathers; Mod-style leather or sequined minidresses, and matching skirt suits and bags, including one in red tweed that channeled Stewart’s on-screen wardrobe.
There was a terrific selection of coats, from a pink tweed number with military patch pockets that actually opened at the sides, to a sparkly gray belted style worn over metallic tights and black rubber boots, in a nod to the British aristocracy’s fondness for dressing down.
A lot of tweed manufacturers owe their continued survival to Chanel, whose production is spread between Scotland, France, Italy, Japan and South Korea. In 2020, the group acquired Italian yarn-maker Vimar, and it’s been working with suppliers to create lighter and more eco-friendly threads to meet the challenge of global warming.
As one of the icons of modern-day fashion, a Chanel tweed jacket is arguably the most sustainable product of all: an item that can be worn again and again, and passed down to your children. It’s no wonder the brand works so hard to keep away poachers.