Chanel couture sets, under artistic director Virginie Viard’s watchful eye, are powerfully simple, each one telling a succinct story to accompany the parade of looks. This season, Viard turned to the button, a humble yet freeing piece of craftsmanship that Gabrielle Chanel utilized almost 100 years ago as a symbol of ease and free movement for the 20th-century woman. This led Viard to consider the grace and allure of ballet, with strong, lithe bodies performing complicated movements like it’s nothing. The collection brings together elements of masculine style with a coquette flair, in a way only Chanel can.
To bring context to the show, Viard enlisted Kendrick Lamar, Dave Free, and Mike Carson to design the set: a single, massive double-C button looming over the runway, surrounded by a screen playing The Button, developed by pgLang, written and directed by Dave Free, scored by Kendrick Lamar, and starring French actress Anna Mouglalis, supermodel and activist Naomi Campbell, and actress and Chanel ambassador Margaret Qualley. Qualley opened the show in a classic tweed jacket, juxtaposed by a dainty transparent skirt and ruffled collar.
The opening looks were all in crisp white tweed and featured painterly touches of color, contrasted by delicate tulle skirts, making the Chanel ballerina come to life. Viard cited the Ballets Russes of Léon Bakst and Sergei Diaghilev as inspiration points for the vivid palette that slowly makes its way into the collection, from saccharine pastels to rich pinks, blues, and greens. In contrast, there were looks that reimagined men’s ballet jackets in tufted tulle, which proved the most alluring in terms of wearability and modernity.
With couture, the devil is in the details, and this rings the most true at Chanel, with a stable of specialist ateliers under its purview, like Lesage, the premier embroidery specialists, and Lemarié, feather- and flower-makers. This go-around, lace, feathers, and ruffles were exacted with delicacy, and the perennial bows even made an appearance, notably on one skirt embroidered with hundreds of miniature pink bows. The dancerly addition of opaque white tights and bows in the models’ hair drove home the elegance and ease of the looks. One could imagine swapping out the strappy low heels for pointe shoes and watching the tulle and ruffled looks soar across the stage. The finale bride this season was frequent Chanel model Loli Bahia, dressed in a short metallic dress cocooned in billowing tulle sleeves and a massive train, light as air yet grounded in realness, something Viard has brought to the Chanel woman over the years, making her couture, yes, a bit less fantastical, but much more promising in terms of longevity and relatability.
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