Chanel is looking at the stars. The Hollywood stars, that is. For Chanel's Spring/Summer 2021 collection designed by creative director Virginie Viard, the French luxury behemoth staged a tribute to not only the golden age of Hollywood, but today's young Hollywood defining it on their terms. Much like Viard, whose work is cast in the shadow of the late Karl Lagerfeld, her mentor and for who she worked side by side with for over thirty years.
The invite imagined Chanel as Hollywood sign via a pop-up card displaying C-H-A-N-E-L imposed on the famous Hollywood hills. If that wasn't enough of a hint, Chanel released a teaser film yesterday that morphed the two worlds, the French capital and the film capital, into one. This being a major Parisian brand and French icon, the 1:40 minute reel directed by Inez van Lamsweerde and Vinoodh Matadin had a Nouvelle Vague film vibe. Think Bridget Bardot, Jeanne Moreau, Anouk Aimee, and Jean Seberg in Breathless. The short magically transformed LA to Paris and vice versa and was spliced with actual French cinema footage from the era.
"I was thinking about actresses at the photocall, coming off the red carpet: their faces a little distracted, their attitude a little out of sync with the outfits they're wearing. And then there's the fans waiting for them behind the barriers, this very lively side to cinema that happens beyond cinema, that's what I like," Viard explained via press release. "This collection is a tribute to the muses of the House. Some of them are far away; it's been a long time since we saw them. Gabrielle Chanel and Karl Lagerfeld dressed so many actresses in films and in real life. I was thinking about them. But without wanting to replicate. Without falling into a vintage citation. I wanted it to be very joyful, colorful, and very vibrant too."
Thus entering the Grand Palais, the estimated 350 guests found a several-story high recreation of the postcard, only this time lined with lights bulbs like the actual Los Angeles monument up in the hills. Security to enter the Grand Palais is always tight and today's show added a layer of safety measures with fresh masks being mandatory and a hand sanitizer shot. Rather than bench seating, guests had a stand-alone square stool, replicating the scaffolding holding up the massive sign set. Throughout these were broken up with seating in the shape of C, H, A, N, E, L with the occasional double C for good measure.
Once the show started — set to lively, fresh pop music — models entered the catwalk from behind the various letters and walked, to put it simply, every which way — the choreography using the metaphor of the red carpet step and repeat process. The models walked crisscross amongst each other and then into the audience in the aisles, between the seating sections, stopping to pose. It didn't only recall today's celebrity red carpet events, but was also very fashion-in-the-'80s and added to the show's charm. The clothes touched upon other eras by channeling the effrontée or cheekiness of the '60s (remember, Nouvelle Vague) and the '90s, popular among young Hollywood elite and Gen Z. By night, the films' golden age took the stage.
Viard paid homage to the '60s with a boxier Chanel jacket proportion, worn with cropped flare pants in sparkly fabrics or short skirts. The hair pulled back into slight bouffant ponytails and headbands popular at the time. The '90s made their appearance via a leather Bolero with puffy sleeves spelling out Chanel, biker shorts, pink denim, one-shoulder dresses, bra tops, a one-off catsuit, T-shirts with neon green and pink logos. Easy draped and gathered silk v-neck dresses in colorful CHANEL letter print evoked the ease that Gabrielle Chanel introduced into the women's wardrobe.
There was even a nod to Grunge in a long-sleeve striped T-shirt, paired with a Chanel tweed slip dress. A red sweater with the word Chanel spelled out in dripping chains embroidered onto it and paired with sweet short pants had a punk feeling.
As night fell onto Chanel's La-La Land, the mood changed with a significant musical shift. Suddenly the models in their black and white creations were waltzing on the runway. Fine marabous feathers covered hemlines and shoulders of cocktail and evening ensembles; capelets covered shoulders, long chiffon capes trailed dramatically behind light tiered dresses (or a bit awkwardly, poked out of pant and skirt hemlines). Chanel has had a long-standing red carpet relationship with Hollywood. The Spring 2021 show reminded us that fashion could inspire dreams and fantasy, just like films.