When she first began to think of Chanel’s fall 2021 haute couture, Virginie Viard was struck by a series of photographs of modernist arch Gabrielle ‘Coco’ Chanel dressed in 19th-century bustles and crinolines for some of the society’s fancy dress balls that were all the rage in the 1930s. In those menacing times, these parties may have been a form of escape, but as we now envision a post-pandemic future and Sewing Week Parisienne unfolds in a flurry of dinners and face-to-face meetings, Viard’s gentle romance suggests rather optimism. .
In preview in the Chanel workshop in rue Cambon, Viard also spoke of two women artists, the famous impressionist Berthe Morisot, sister-in-law of Manet, and the cubist Marie Laurencin, a key figure in the cultural landscape of the era of jazz. Paris, whose delicately colored works include a portrait of young Coco Chanel herself. In haute couture, God is in the details – even the exquisite buttons mimic artist palettes or Monet’s water lilies, crafted from mosaics of tiny colored rhinestones, while feathered flowers bloom beneath the stiff edges. Maison Michel felt hats.
These pictorial inspirations have come together in a collection characterized by a lightness of touch. Viard has encouraged some truly remarkable work from the great embroidery houses of Paris, including Lesage, Cécile Henri, Atelier Emmanuelle Vernoux and Atelier Montex, and the feather and flower designers Lemarie. These masters cleverly imitated the bold, thick paint strokes of an impressionist à la Van Gogh, or delicate pointillist touches at the Seurat to create small works of art reminiscent of rose gardens or fringes of dahlia petals. Lesage’s incredible gardenia-studded cardigan jacket (look 21), crafted from strands of feathers, required 2,000 hours of expert manual labor, as Viard pointed out during a studio preview. But as gorgeous as these pieces are, they’re as light as thistle down, embroidered on tulle and chiffon.
This airy spirit continues in the original way Viard marries with puffy skirts or even suits – crafted from ‘tweed’ woven from narrow strands of multi-colored tulle and ribbon – with delicate, pale pink eyelet bustiers. or chalky lace, and light chiffon. and lace camisoles and bloomers which she rightly calls her “little negligee”.
Meanwhile, a trio of cream pantsuits, embellished with shimmering sequin boas by Schlaepfer and braided faux hawks by hairstylist Daniel Boissinot, allude to Viard’s rock side. The bride, however, beautifully personified by Margaret Qualley in a stately gown of soft pink satin, recalled the days of the house before WWII, worn as is with a black box hat accompanied by a veil studded with multicolored sequins in clusters, based on the one worn by Gabrielle Chanel herself in a 1930s pastel portrait sketch that now hangs in the Chanel studio.
As the girls lined up backstage in the galleries of the Palais Galliera Fashion Museum, which currently hosts the remarkable exhibition Gabrielle Chanel: Fashion manifesto, Viard’s clothes suddenly found themselves in dialogue with Coco Chanel’s originals from the 1920s and 1930s, a garden of artisanal beauty.