Catching the virtual Fall/Winter 2020 couture telecasts in these times brings the same excitement as binging on Netflix’s Cursed, The Umbrella Academy, Stateless and The Last Dance. Following Monday’s surrealist 14-minute short by Dior which was directed by Matteo Garrone, yesterday’s packed line-up of digital presentations included Stephane Rolland, Alexis Mabille and Rahul Mishra among others.
The headlining act, however, was Chanel, which presented an almost one-and-a-half minute film by Swedish photographer Mikael Jansson. Artistic director Virginie Viard prefaced her collection as her ode to Karl Lagerfeld and his love for partying at Le Palace – the legendary Parisian nightclub that has been likened to New York’s Studio 54 for being an institution/watering hole for aristocrats, punks, and the LGBT crowd.
Naturally, it was an inspiration that bore plenty of ideas for Viard. “I was thinking about a punk princess coming out of Le Palace at dawn,” she said in a statement. “With a taffeta dress, big hair, feathers and lots of jewellery.” Some of the jewellery worn by the models in the video and lookbook were pieces from the Chanel high jewellery vault.
The 30-piece collection was a riotous affair. For some, it might seem like a far cry from the standard fare associated with the Viard school of thought which is guided by a fresh and stripped-back approach to womenswear. However, couture is Viard’s stomping ground and this is where she is most in her element. Recall that she cut her teeth at the Maison as an intern for haute couture embroidery in 1987 and spent a few years in the house’s couture department from the late ’90s to 2000 before moving on to work on pret-a-porter.
So how does the Viard party girl dresses up? Think black suits adorned with diamond-like braiding, short flirty dresses with corolla skirts, and a smocked jacket worn with boots that calls to mind a New Romantics wardrobe. This being couture, Viard has the backing of Chanel’s many embroidery ateliers to back her vision – Lesage, Montex, Lemarie and Goossens each lent their expertise and adorned the tweeds in the collections with sequins, strass, stones and beads.
At just 30 looks, that figure is just a fraction of the number of designs that a Chanel couture collection would entail pre-Covid-19 – pointing to the grim realities of creating fashion in these unprecedented times. But Viard’s push to keep the couture atelier running despite the odds proves that she dances to her own beat.