It was flashback time for photographers at the Chanel show, which was staged in a replica of the Carrousel du Louvre, the cavernous venue that hosted many Paris Fashion Week shows in the 1980s and 1990s.
Snappers were grouped around a raised runway for a high-energy show that brought to mind late creative director Karl Lagerfeld’s supermodel extravaganzas in the ’90s. Models flipped their hair, jutted their hips and winked as they paraded in graphic swimsuits, logo-patterned dresses and tweed suits in a throwback palette of lilac, pink and yellow.
While some had a field day with the brief, others were visibly less comfortable vamping it up. The prize for Most Winning Smile went to Jill Kortleve, while Mariam de Vinzelle won for Most Dramatic Hair Toss, and Louise de Chevigny for Best Use of an Accessory, for her deft way with a chiffon stole.
With the Grand Palais undergoing renovations, Chanel switched to a temporary replacement venue near the Eiffel Tower for its first runway show with an audience in 12 months. The dark, cramped setting afforded less of a stage for peacocking Chanel clients, but gave creative director Virginie Viard an excuse to play with the show format.
Since succeeding Lagerfeld following his death in 2019, she has brought in a variety of big names to shoot the brand’s campaigns and press kits, which Lagerfeld personally lensed for more than three decades. “I’ve never taken pictures, but it’s something that fascinates me,” Viard said in a preview. “It magnifies the collection.”
The show decor, dominated by a giant image of model Vivienne Rohner holding a camera, was a tribute to those image-makers, including Inez Van Lamsweerde and Vinoodh Matadin, who were positioned at the end of the podium to record the action for Chanel’s digital broadcast later in the day.
Guests entered through a room where giant screens showed black-and-white footage of brand ambassadors, including Lily-Rose Depp and Blackpink’s Jennie, picking up cameras and preening in a director’s chair. Inside, photographers jostled to get a picture of the stars in person.
Rohner was first on the runway, in a low-cut white swimsuit and black T-shirt that were a perfect foil for the accessories: two-tone flats, a black 2.55 handbag, an oversize quilted tote and oodles of necklaces, in the kind of pileup that Lagerfeld made a trademark of ‘90s Chanel.
Some looks appeared teleported from that era: a cropped T-shirt with “Chanel” spelled out in sequins was paired with a long black skirt with a thong peeking over the waistband, while a pink cardigan came with a matching crop top and shorts. Handbags shaped like bottles of No. 5 perfume, which celebrates its centenary this year, are sure to generate waiting lists.
Viard offered oversized jackets in a variety of hues, including a lilac version printed with double-C logos. Miniskirts featured extended flaps in the back, while a black leather quilted dungaree had the aura of an instant classic.
Flou tends to be Viard’s weak point, and this show was no exception, with a closing sequence of chiffon dresses in an oversized butterfly print that felt like a downer, compared to the rest of the colorful lineup.
Viard took a risk by transporting her audience back to a golden period for Chanel, running the danger of being unfavorably compared with her predecessor. While the media-shy designer will never match Lagerfeld’s bombastic presence, this was a customer-friendly outing that should keep the brand’s cash registers ringing.