Chanel Couture Show Illuminates High Fashion Despite Designer’s Abrupt Departure


In a hard-hat area commonly known as the construction of high fashion, the indefatigable force of Chanel persevered. As if affirming the old adage that the show must indeed go on, Chanel couture had its moment in the limelight Tuesday, illuminating some ebullient colors and daring cuts.

No matter how many fashion houses Paris boasts, but only a few can lay claim to have shared stage with the iconic Vogue Editor-in-Chief, Anna Wintour and other luminaries. Beating the odds and partying sans designer after the sudden departure of Virginie Viard in June, Chanel’s latest performance demonstrated the vigor and flair of its celebrated atelier.

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Pouring into clutches of Chanel opera glasses, spectators eagerly navigated labyrinthine marble staircases to discover a stage nestling in the Opera’s outer corridors. The stage was replete with red velvet opera boxes conjured up by French filmmaking maven Christophe Honoré. The decor dripped with theatricality; silhouettes inspired by the opera and its glory days were married with dramatic capes, billowing sleeves, and resplendently embroidered articles, designed to match the 19th-century atrium’s opulence.

A black gown with skyward puff sleeves took center-stage, the beads, feathers, and ribbons catching the light provocatively. Gleefully reaching for their cameras, spectators rushed to capture the spectacle in all its unabashedly provocative glory. In contrast to the lavish costume design of yesteryears, Chanel’s latest couture season took a welcome turn towards less accessorizing. It was a departure from the design aesthetic woodmarked by the former designer Virginie Viard.

Emphasis pulled towards garments in their own right told a tale of artful craftsmanship and opulent fabric choices. Feathers, tassels, floral embroideries, lacquered jerseys, velvety silks, tulle illusions and precious braids transformed raw materials into a visual feast fit for the grandeur of the venue itself.

However, amid the individual moments of brilliance, the collection had a slightly disparate feel, occasionally missing a singular, aesthetic anchor. Despite this, Chanel took a moment to honor the dozens of artisans known as the ‘Petites Mains’ operating out of six ateliers, located within stone’s throw from the venue – merchants of the luxurious dreams woven into fabric we call couture.

Chanel’s first major event in a post-Viard era came in the wake of an abrupt announcement, a tricky departure from Chanel’s penchant for perfect image execution. It was a darkly unorthodox interruption in the run-up to the couture show. Viard’s abrupt absence from her final couture display saw her team stepping into the breach to assuage any potential crisis. Despite her rocky tenure and critical backlash regarding her design choices, Viard’s contribution towards Chanel’s upward sales trajectory at a reported $19.7 billion cannot be overlooked.

In the speculative whirl of high fashion, a swirl of potential successors is being bandied about. Prominent among these are Hedi Slimane, Marine Serre, and Simon Porte Jacquemus, hinting at potential shifts in the creative direction of the iconic brand.

Conjuring a nostalgic panorama of the Art Deco period, fashion doyen Giorgio Armani’s display at Palais de Tokyo was a veritable cocktail of pearls, velvets, and an assortment of stunning fabrics— a love melody to the Roaring Twenties and Thirties. A vision of romanticism, the pearl-adorned black angular jacket embodied the classic Armani tailoring aesthetic and hit the collection’s theme right on the mark.

However, the beautiful and timeless designs sometimes lacked the shock element seen in other shows of the season.

Then came the effervescent couturier Alexis Mabille in a toast to glamour that showcased a stunning variety of silhouettes and themes. For all its incoherence, perhaps the wide array was a part of Mabille’s captivating charm. The creativity extravaganza ended on a high note with 27-year-old wunderkind Charles de Vilmorin, whose collection of experimental silhouettes and audacious pallet was an elixir of rich tales masterfully spun into couture.