In 1924, Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel made a splash by designing the costumes for the Ballets Russes production “Le Train Bleu,” as part of a group of creatives that also included Pablo Picasso and Jean Cocteau. Fast forward a century, and her successor Virginie Viard gathered her own artists’ collective for her dance-inspired haute couture collection.
U.S. singer Kendrick Lamar, filmmaker Dave Free and creative director Mike Carson designed the circular set dominated by a giant button, which descended from the ceiling at the start of the show. Lamar and Free also worked on “The Button,” a teaser film of the collection starring Margaret Qualley, who opened the show.
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Grinning broadly, she paraded in an ivory jacket that was conspicuously missing a button on the right sleeve — the one she’s racing to replace in the short movie. A classically trained ballerina, Qualley is no newcomer to the Chanel runway, having made her Paris modeling debut for the brand in 2011.
The French luxury house is a major patron of the Paris Opera Ballet, and this season, Viard went light as a tutu with a lineup that toggled between ultra-short hemlines and frothy layers of tulle.
“There’s a lot of leg in this collection,” the designer said in a preview. “There’s something magical about bodies in motion.” A case in point: the micro-mini versions of Chanel’s signature tweed suit that will have you plié, chassé and jeté all day.
With its delicate color palette, the collection brought to mind her predecessor Karl Lagerfeld’s love of pastel tones and delicate embellishment inspired by the 18th century. But where Lagerfeld mined a theme with a rigorous mastery of references, Viard has a more intuitive approach that can make her collections feel disjointed.
Here, she experimented with transparency, pairing a white leotard and pink tweed wrap jacket with a wisp of a black chiffon skirt, or a sheer black baby doll over barely-there pants. Like all the looks, they were worn with thick white tights and black open-toed sandals with a small heel.
Viard brought in volume with a fluted black coat worn over a skimpy tutu, or a pink tulle maxiskirt topped with a glittery silver sequined jacket. But her slimline evening gowns, dissolving into layers of vaporous fabric and feathers, were the true stars of the show.
Bruno Pavlovsky, president of fashion and president of Chanel SAS, said haute couture was coming off a strong year with solid order books and should maintain its momentum, despite a general slowdown in luxury spending.
“We’re still fielding the same number of requests so I think that haute couture is not quite in the same situation as ready-to-wear, accessories or boutiques,” he said. “There are fewer customers coming into stores. It’s a tougher context: people are traveling less, simply because the economy is less favorable, so we are reining back our forecasts for 2024.”
While the brand is still banking on growth, following three “exceptional” years, it does not expect luxury to remain totally immune to the headwinds battering other sectors, the executive said.
With its spring couture film and show, Chanel sought to convey that its tweed jackets are a safe-haven investment: the kind that can be handed down from generation to generation.
“Chanel time is a little different. Saying that things can improve over time is very relevant today, I think, and an haute couture product can age, but it doesn’t lose any of its symbolic power and impact,” Pavlovsky said.
Launch Gallery: Chanel Couture Spring 2024
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