Chanel need a creative director of vision – this was a treading water couture show

A model walks the runway during the Chanel Haute Couture Fall/Winter 2024-2025 show
This was a more than competent Chanel show, but flashes of lightning are expected from this billion dollar powerhouse - Stephane Cardinale/Getty

Well, that was an interesting collection. Interesting because it’s the first one Chanel has presented without a creative director in place. The last time that happened was before Karl Lagerfeld joined the house, to some fanfare, in 1983.

Interesting because it showed just how accomplished the large teams that operate at Europe’s big luxury fashion houses are. Virginie Viard, Lagerfeld’s successor, left the house at the beginning of June after five years as creative director. She had worked for Lagerfeld there for 30 years, starting as an intern.

The extent to which she was involved with this collection isn’t known. Nor are the circumstances of her departure. When it comes to its inner workings, Chanel, privately owned by the Wertheimer family, who’ve been involved with the business since 1924, is not a communicative company. Viard herself was even less so, in stark contrast to the highly articulate, rent-a-quote Lagerfeld.

Chanel model wearing black dress
This couture show was the first since Viard left Chanel - Kristy Sparow/Getty

Did she jump or was she pushed? No one knows, despite their claims. Many of her collections were not critical hits. But nor are any designer’s. Were they commercially successful? Chanel said recently they were, shortly before they announced Viard’s departure. The company’s doing just fine as a whole, its revenues topped out at just under $20 billion (£15.7 billion) last year. But much of that comes from perfumes and cosmetics, and what burnishes these with a special lustre, compared with, say, Guerlain’s excellent perfumes and cosmetics, are the catwalk shows. Had Viard’s collections been jackpot winners, surely the company would have fought harder to keep her. It’s not currently known where, if anywhere, the 62-year-old is going.

Guests in attendance included Naomi Campbell
Guests in attendance included Naomi Campbell - Getty
Greta Gerwig
Greta Gerwig at the show - Getty

So what do we know? That this was a more than competent collection of ultra-expensive clothes (couture prices start in the tens of thousands for a made to measure tweed jacket). We know too that all the traditional Chanel codes were marshalled into place. Bows perched on immaculate pony tails, classic tweed jackets matched with skirts. Pretty satin sandals balanced on low jewelled heels that might not get the social media commentators as excited as a £1,500 Chanel-logo’d welly, but will nevertheless probably sell and sell – all present and correct.

A model walks the runway in a black and white tweed shirt and matching skirt
Classic tweed was on display... - Stephane Cardinale/Getty

The famous boxy tweed jackets were a tad frumpy this time: Chanel’s jackets are better when they’re shorter. The gold tweed shift dresses were a hit. The fact is, every Chanel staple exists in almost every imaginable iteration in the archives. The team just has to trot them out and tweak the details.

A model walks the runway in an all-pink tweed shirt and skirt
...but some of the designs felt boxy and frumpy - Stephane Cardinale/Getty

Enter feathers, tassels, embroidered flowers and the requisite nails-on-blackboard Chanel moment: in this instance couture joggers and matching jackets. Add little black dresses in shiny jerseys, the rustle of silk taffeta cloaks (the show took place at the baroquely over-the-top Garnier Opera) and you have a perfectly decent Chanel show.

Woman wears jacket made of black feathers
Feathery touches were among the bolder choices - Kristy Sparow/Getty

Of course, this was really an exercise in treading water, albeit the golden water you find in the rarefied rockpools of this iconic company. Chanel needs to find a creative director of vision if it’s not to diminish as a fashion house.

Hedi Slimane, who transformed the fortunes of Saint Laurent and Celine by digging deep into their archives and giving them a cool, Slimane under-do is the front runner. He’d certainly come up with a modern, youthful version of the Chanel jacket (he’s been doing one at Celine for the past five years). Then again, the talented Pierpaolo Piccioli, latterly of Valentino, and Sarah Burton, until recently at Alexander McQueen, are also on the market.

Will it be any of them? The only certainty is that keeping everyone guessing keeps Chanel in the news.

More from the show

Nile Rodgers
Nile Rodgers - Getty
Chanel Haute Couture Fall 2024
Chanel Haute Couture Fall 2024 - Corbis /Getty
Chanel Haute Couture Fall 2024
Chanel Haute Couture Fall 2024 - WWD/Getty
Chanel Haute Couture Fall 2024
Chanel Haute Couture Fall 2024 - WWD/Getty
Chanel Haute Couture Fall 2024
Chanel Haute Couture Fall 2024 - Getty