If the past 24 hours have taught anything to luxury brands, it’s that featuring animals in a fashion show is a fraught proposition. While Schiaparelli set off a hailstorm of controversy with its eerily realistic depictions of animal heads, the bestiary that artist Xavier Veilhan created for the Chanel couture show was fanciful enough to skirt any accusations of cruelty to animals.
His giant stylized sculptures of creatures including a buffalo, a horse and the fictional “croco-dog” were wheeled out at the start of the show, held in the temporary Grand Palais venue near the Eiffel Tower, marking the third and final chapter of Veilhan’s collaboration with Chanel creative director Virginie Viard.
Animals are a recurring theme in his work and Viard suggested he riff on those found in the carefully restored apartment of founder Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel, which is filled with objects, sculptures and drawings representing does, stags, birds, camels and lions — the latter a nod to her star sign, Leo.
Several models popped out of the mobile statues, dressed in thigh-grazing outfits accessorized with top hats, bow ties and majorette-style white lace-up boots. Tweed jackets were paired with flippy pleated skirts, wide shorts or miniskirts sporting frothy tulle ruffles, while flared coats accentuated the waist.
From a distance it was hard to spot the Easter eggs in this collection: a crystal embroidery of a corgi winked from the neckline of a pixel-effect tweed jacket, while the black-and-white pattern on a ‘20s-style silver lamé dress depicted little rabbits.
In a preview, Viard — dressed in a sweatshirt embellished with a sequined giraffe, a gift from Lesage creative director Hubert Barrère — pointed out her favorite: a white lace bustier column dress overlaid with a sheer vest embroidered with a gold deer head.
Eveningwear played with transparency and metallic effects, which are emerging as a strong trend on the couture runways this season. At the end of the show, the bride, wearing a short bustier dress and veil embroidered with swallows, emerged from inside an elephant.
“I like it when the marvelous bursts forth and the course of events is interrupted,” Viard said in a statement. With its naïve mise en scène, the show revealed a more playful side to the designer, in line with the changing face of her customers.
“Our haute couture clientele is getting younger and younger,” said Bruno Pavlovsky, president of fashion and president of Chanel SAS.
“Most of these new clients are entrepreneurs or businesswomen,” he continued. “Whether in Europe, France, the U.S. or Asia, namely in Hong Kong and China, we’re in touch with new clients who are very curious about the exceptional and unique nature of these designs.”
Chances are, many will spot their fetish animal in this whimsical lineup. What could be more personal than that?