Chanel Went Top to Toe Punk With This Anarchic Couture Collection

Stephanie Hirschmiller

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“I was thinking about a punk princess coming out of Le Palace at dawn,” said Chanel artistic director Virginie Viard of her fall ’20 Haute Couture collection. “With a taffeta dress, big hair, feathers and lots of jewellery.”

Interestingly, she added that it had been more inspired by Karl Lagerfeld than house founder Gabrielle Chanel. Lagerfeld would go to the famously louche Parisian night club in its late ’70s and early ’80s heyday, Viard’s shownotes continued. “He would accompany these very sophisticated and very dressed up women, who were very eccentric too.”

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The collection, presented via a short film directed by Mikael Jansson, was unveiled online today during Paris Haute Couture Week Online. It featured models Adut Akech and Rianne Van Rompaey.

The video’s juddering analogue narrative recalled amateur camcorder footage shot of ‘Le Palace’ denizens on the dance floor. It contrasted neatly with the savoir faire and opulence of the couture and jewelry worn by the models.

No digital wizardry here. Chanel remains resolutely opposed to selling its collections online too.

All of the house’s embroidery partners, including the Métiers d’art Lesage and Montex, as well as Lemarié and Goossens were involved in creating the tweed fabrics which were embellished with sequins, strass, stones and beads.

Some looks were even paired with jewels from the Chanel high jewelry collections.

Inky black pantsuits came with diamond-esque braiding while short dresses and corolla skirts were cinched at the waist. You can just imagine the long evening gowns trailing amidst the cigarette ends at the end of the evening at Le Palace or being ripped with abandon as they caught on heels on the dance floor.

Talking of which, Viard also gave the punk treatment to that Gabrielle Coco Chanel staple, the round toed, bi-color pumps synonymous with both house and its founder alike. Viard’s new versions come with pointy toes, sharp little heels and black ribbons that lace around the foot.

The 19 century Grand Siècle look of bodices and corsets was also reimagined via the Lagerfeld lens. “It’s true that I thought about paintings, but it was more German paintings,” noted Viard. “I really had Karl’s world in mind.”

Black and anthracite grey tonalities are illuminated with flashes of pink while a jacket with an entirely smocked waist worn over tapered boot-trousers in black suede recalls the New Romantic era. “For me, Haute Couture is romantic by its very essence,” Viard added. “There is so much love in each one of these silhouettes.”

The collection came in sharp contrast to spring ’20 which was influenced by asceticism of the abbey at Aubazine, the orphanage where Gabrielle Chanel grew up.

“I like working like this, going in the opposite direction of what I did last time. I wanted complexity, sophistication,” Viard concluded.

Watch the film here. 

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