As we begin to navigate the challenges of real-world dressing once again, Virginie Viard’s Cruise 2021/22 collection for Chanel proposed a simple formula for nailing Parisian chic: wear anything you like, provided it’s black or white.
Set against the vast, ghostly white limestone backdrop of the Carrières de Lumières (Quarries of Light) in Les Baux-de-Provence, the monochrome Chanel Cruise 21/22 show – a digital event – was inspired by brand founder Gabrielle (Coco) Chanel’s friendship with multi-hyphenate creative tour de force Jean Cocteau, and in particular a scene in his 1960 film Testament of Orpheus in which a man with a black horse’s head descends into the cavernous quarry, his silhouette cut out against the pearly white walls.
Just as the film was shot almost exclusively in black and white spliced with just a few seconds of colour, so too Viard’s clean and powerful collection came in a distinct two-tone, with the only flashes of pastel coming via Chanel’s signature boucle suiting in the palest whisper of pink and a ruffle of purple feathers trimming a black mini dress.
The overall mood was Sixties-meets-punk, with patent white leather go-go boots, Peter Pan collared dresses in graphic floral prints and pointed silver Mary Janes sitting alongside fringed leather skirts, studded leather trousers and black chokers. Every model accessorised with kohl-smudged eyes, dishevelled hair and fishnets. "Echoing the extreme modernity of Cocteau’s film, I wanted something quite rock,” Viard explained.
The final five looks were standout, each a varying iteration of a black macramé cape worn over a black velvet mini dress with black fishnets a white boots. A punky but playful silhouette that’s sure to be mimicked on the high street come autumn.
While the show was lacking the usual A-listers sat front row, ten friends of the house, among them Lily-Rose Depp, Daisy Edgar-Jones, Margot Robbie and Ellie Bamber, wrote loving letters describing their sadness not to be there. “I’ll be with you in spirit as I watch and cheer from afar,” read Robbie’s note. “Dreaming of the days when I could jump on a plane to be with my Chanel family.”
The Chanel family, like so many others this year, might be geographically dispersed, but its ties remain as close as Coco’s and Cocteau’s. "Ultimately, through her friendships, it is Chanel, the woman, that I love more and more,” said Viard. “Her life gives us access to characters just as extraordinary as herself.”