Chanel shows are known for their extravagance — over-the-top sets, creative costumery, all presented for one of the largest live audiences in fashion. But, in a new era of tuning in from home, the French fashion house is reimagining the joy and celebration from afar. For Chanel's Spring/Summer 2021 Haute Couture show, Creative Director Virginie Viard wanted to recreate the jubilation of a summer family get-together, an event surely missed.
"I love big family reunions, when the generations all come together," she explained in the brand's press release. Adding, "I knew we couldn't organize a big show, that we would have to invent something else, so I came up with the idea of a small cortege that would come down the stairs of the Grand Palais and pass beneath arches of flowers. Like a family celebration, a wedding…” And so, the models took their places on the runway, creating a sweet sense of intimacy in the center of Paris' Grand Palais, a sweeping structure that in past lives housed a Chanel iceberg, grocery store, and even a rocketship. The guest list was small — limited to brand ambassadors like Marion Cotillard, Penélope Cruz, and Lily-Rose Depp watching from their socially distanced wooden seats.
The 32-piece collection, created by the couturiers who craft Chanel's most luxurious, detailed designs, was lighthearted, and romantic. High-volume gowns weren't meant to be stuffy or formal but instead infused with a youthful element of play. The 1920's served as the day's decade of inspiration, with nipped-at-the-waist suiting, Mary-Jane heels, and even a collared wedding gown embroidered with pearl butterflies. It's a collection that is earnest and hopeful, playing to an audience craving an occasion to twirl on a dance floor once again.
Traditionally with the ready-to-wear collection, Chanel's accessories are one area where shoppers pay close attention — picking out the bag or earrings they'll invest in before the show is even over. But, couture is all about the clothes — the jewelry was minimal, kept to a smattering of bracelets (and a pearl belly chain), and while a few models donned fasteners, the headgear was mostly focused on colorful flower crowns — which will wilt before they can ever make it into the hands of a Chanel fan.
Though the fashion world may have temporarily shifted its focus to sweatpants, leggings, and sneakers, Viard approaches the idea of dressing in a different way. "I'm always thinking about what women would like to have in their wardrobe today," she explains. Today, there are plenty of reasons to focus on needs — what makes you comfortable at home, what you'll get the most utility out of. But, let Chanel serve to remind, that wants can be just as important as needs sometimes too.