Set at the Jardin de L'Étrier in the Bois de Boulogne, CHANEL’s FW 22-23 Couture Show was a brilliant synthesis of all those elements that are known to spark the house’s artistic director’s imagination. Virginie Viard infused the collection with the emblems of her inspiration: Karl Lagerfeld’s classic silhouettes, Fred Astaire’s cinematic outfits, as well as Gabrielle Chanel’s ‘30s aesthetic values, they all paraded down a Constructivist runway crafted by installation artist Xavier Veilhan and showcased a mesmerizing and plethoric high-end collection.
Suits and long dresses that Gabrielle Chanel imagined nearly a century ago were reintroduced in a way that gloriously connects the past with the future. Fitted to the body, yet with strong shoulders, beautifully pleated and adorned with lace, they were reworked carefully so that they match today’s fashion standards. A palette consisting of bright green, khaki, beige, pink, lots of black and silver creates an inviting and elegant stylistic context. Tweed skirt and jacket co-ords, capri-style pants, floral dresses, metallic and wool coats with fringes, oversized pied-de-poule patterns and intricate lacework and embroidery managed to bring out the casual side of haute couture. Meanwhile, wide-brim hats and chunky cowboy boots paid tribute to the equestrian center in which the show took place, and a white head bow along with a boho-chic shawl complemented the jaw-dropping white strapless wedding gown that closed the show (worn by Jill Kortleve).
Looking closely at the models, one can easily spot an abundance of jewelry gracing the looks. Viard’s homage to “Bijoux de diamants”, the first and only jewelry collection designed by Gabrielle Chanel is an indication of how the house sees fashion as a whole: you cannot invent the future without a look back at the most powerful moments of yesterday.
When Gabrielle Chanel opened her first stores in Deauville, Biarritz and Paris, at the start of the previous century, nobody believed she had the power to break into the fashion industry, let alone shape it the way she did. Time proved that what she had to offer was more than a series of smart ideas and cool trends; it was a revolution. That is what makes the title of the ongoing, globe-trotting exhibition concerning her legacy, so accurate. Gabrielle Chanel’s work was indeed a manifesto; a statement bound to change the world.
From the famous 1916 marinière and the little black dresses of the Roaring Twenties to the braided tweed suit, the two-tone pumps and the 2.55 quilted bag, visitors can explore the original, iconic pieces that formed the legendary CHANEL universe and influenced fashion in a pivotal way. Long floral dresses in various colors, romantic silk and lace gowns in black adorned with bows, sequins and luxurious buttons, costumey red capes and elaborate embroideries that stand the test of time, prove that Gabrielle always had a knack for wearable beauty, a special talent at creating luxurious garments that remain comfortable and surprising casual. The opulent, Byzantine-inspired jewels in green, gold and red accentuate the richness of her vision as well as its historical depth.
Innovation, creative subversiveness, pure talent. Gabrielle Chanel’s archive is a testament to the brand’s timeless value and bright future, not to mention a priceless way for us to observe social, aesthetic and political changes through the years.