Chanel’s Spring 2020 Couture Collection Takes A Trip Back To Coco’s Childhood
In the year since Virginie Viard stepped into the role of Creative Director at Chanel, she has proven her ability to modernize the iconic French brand in an understated, thoughtful way. In July 2019 she showed her first ever couture collection for the label, transforming Paris' Grand Palais into a library where models walked the runway wearing wearable tweeds and bookish glasses. For Chanel's Spring/Summer 2020 Couture show, presented on Jan. 21, Viard went back to the personal history of the brand's founder Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel herself. Guests found themselves walking a brick pathway surrounded by cabbages, tomatoes, flowers, and even a fountain — all a tribute to the garden at the Abbey of Aubazine, the orphanage where Chanel and her two sisters were left by their father as children. Chanel lived there for seven years, starting at just 11 years old.
It was a visit to the actual grounds and gardens that inspired Viard’s latest couture collection. “What I immediately liked was that the cloister garden was uncultivated," Viard notes via press release. "It was really sunny. The place made me think of the summer, a breeze fragranced with flowers. I wanted floral embroideries like an herbarium, delicate flowers. What interested me in this décor was the paradox between the sophistication of Haute Couture and the simplicity of this place.”
The color palette seen throughout is almost solely of black and white, a tribute to the humble nuns’ robes from the convent. While keeping the clothing mostly monochromatic, Viard created intrigue by playing with pattern and shape, finding ways to reference both the schoolgirl uniforms Chanel herself would have worn, and more glamorous silhouettes typically tied to a couture collection.
Houndstooth featured heavily within the collection, as did dotted tweeds, Swiss dots, lace and stripes. “I also liked the idea of the boarder, of the schoolgirl, the outfits worn by children long ago,” Viard says via release. She emphasized a sense of youthfulness throughout with Peter Pan collars, loafers paired white ankle socks (also a major street style trend) or white opaque tights, and floaty floral laces. The hemlines tended to hit at the ankle or at least the knee, but there was nothing stuffy or corporate about the looks.
One of the standout looks from the collection was a skirt suit inspired by stained glass, a direct reference to the actual windows from the aforementioned abbey of Chanel’s childhood. It was also one of the few ensembles where color was used throughout the collection. Elsewhere, Viard displayed her eye for intricate design by deftly playing with texture — layering tulle over rich knits or combining delicate silk and lace together. The effect is a collection that touches on pillars of childhood dressing while feeling entirely adult. Gigi Hadid's black long-sleeve dress may look demure, but zoom in on the shimmering buttons, rhinestone belt buckle, and embroidered collar, and you can see the nods to something less stiff.
While often Couture is considered an opportunity to create over-the-top, decadent clothing, Viard continues to show that her strength is in her finesse and ability to create luxury for the everyday. Her predecessor Karl Lagerfeld was known for his extravagant sets and lively designs, but in just four collections at the helm, Viard is creating her own vision for both couture and ready-to-wear. For the spring 2020 collection, she has proven her ability to find inspiration in even the more somber parts of Chanel's life and create something that feels entirely new and covetable.