This is what we call showing a spirit of synthesis. Chanel unveiled its latest haute couture collection on Tuesday at noon, in an unprecedented format: an elegant video, published on the Internet, inspired by the famous nightclub Le Palace, all in just one minute and twenty-two seconds.
Shot brilliantly by the famous Swedish photographer Mikael Jansson, the short film is by far the shortest of the Parisian season, transposed this year into an exclusively digital event. 33 fashion houses are on the calendar for this new kind of Fashion Week.
“The collection is distinguished by a desire for opulence, sparkle and sophistication. I had in mind several eccentric princesses, the kind of women Karl Lagerfeld liked to accompany to the Palace evenings”, explains Virginie Viard, the creative director of the venerable house, in its program.
Mikael Jansson’s video cleverly captures the vibe of the famous nightclub’s unbridled evenings, its costume parties that drew an eccentric throng of jet-setters, whether gay or straight, rich or poor – and among them, dozens of couturiers, in particular Karl Lagerfeld, a regular at the Palace.
In the video, we can admire mainly five outfits, interspersed with other silhouettes, worn by only two models: first, the Dutch Rianne von Rompaey, in a dazzling low-cut dress, in embroidered looped tweed, both daring and rock ‘n’roll. Then followed the sublime Adut Akech, who wore bougainvillea-colored tweed pants. Rianne van Rompaey also looked very impressive in a straight cut evening dress, richly embroidered with pearls, sequins and metallic flowers, simple ankle boots laced to the feet. Adut Akech also appears in a gathered dress of pearl gray taffeta, adorned with a Byzantine brooch – exactly as Mademoiselle Coco herself would have drawn.
“I pictured to myself a punk princess coming out of the Palace at dawn. With a taffeta dress, long hair, feathers and lots of jewelry. This collection is more inspired by Karl Lagerfeld than by Gabrielle Chanel. Karl often went to the Palace to accompany these sophisticated and very dressed women, who were also deeply eccentric “, tells Virginie Viard, who took over from the German designer last year.
Rianne van Rompaey concludes the video in a low-cut black dress, adorned with a huge bow, worn with a gorgeous high jewelry silver pendant, her hair spiky in a punky chic yet spiky style – in complete harmony with the the wild atmosphere that reigned at the Palace at the time. The clip perfectly captures the essence of the nightclub’s late nights, when Mick Jagger, Andy Warhol, Roland Barthes and Jean-Paul Goude rubbed shoulders to applaud Grace Jones, who was performing her cover of Life in pink, perched on a Harley Davidson in a cloud of smoke.
The theme of the collection contrasted directly with Chanel’s last haute couture show in January, which referred to Coco’s education in an austere convent in Aubazine.
“I like to work like that, going in the opposite direction from what I did last time. This time, I wanted complexity, sophistication”, explains Virginie Viard, for whom the atmosphere general this season could be summed up by this formula: “an ultra-rock romanticism”.
But because of the very nature of this presentation – a well-paced video editing – it was difficult to appreciate the know-how of the house’s partner embroiderers, such as Lesage and Montex, or the contributions of Lemarié and Goossens, who embellished the tweeds with sequins, crystals and stones. This kind of craftsmanship demands a live show, a format Chanel plans to return to in the next ready-to-wear season in Paris this fall.
In total, the collection has 30 looks – relatively few for a Chanel show, but still impressive considering the three months of confinement imposed on the entire sector. According to the press release published by the house, the collection is made up of short dresses with cinched waist and rustling corolla skirts alongside long dresses with a very Grand Siècle look, recalling “the noble authority of the heroines escaped from the paintings of the 19th century “. Painted lace adorns boleros and tweeds woven with silver ribbons. But you’ll have to take Chanel at her word, because none of this appears in the very short video.
Two days earlier, the house had announced the color in a 29-second spot produced by French documentary filmmaker Loïc Prigent, who filmed the Chanel workshop in the final moments of the preparation of this Fall-Winter 2020/21 collection. On a door handle, we see a golden Chanel bag, adorned with this slogan: “Please Dare to Disturb” (“Please Dare to Disturb” in French). Behind the door, the staff of the workshop at 31 rue Cambon putting the finishing touches on the silhouettes drawn by Virginie Viard, who is also wearing a white mask – the first designer to wear such an accessory this season. In fact, the whole workshop wears a mask during this fitting on the Brazilian model Cristina Herrmann, who herself appeared in the presentation video of the Chanel Cruise collection, Stroll in the Mediterranean.
“For me, Haute Couture is romantic in essence. There is so much love in each of these silhouettes …”, confesses Virginie Viard.