Chanel swaps pomp and fanfare for flip-flops and ponchos

<span>Composite: Getty</span>
Composite: Getty

The flip-flops on the catwalk were a symbol of how much Chanel has changed. Four years after Virginie Viard took over the house from the late Karl Lagerfeld, Chanel has less pomp and fanfare, and a more informal dress code. That shift reflects both Viard’s own tastes – where Lagerfeld was bedecked in pearls and ruffs, she takes her bow after a show in simple black trousers and a T-shirt – and the casualisation of how the real world gets dressed.

Chanel’s collection for next summer, shown on the last day of Paris fashion week, was made up for the most part of the sort of clothes real women wear on holiday. There were blue jeans and striped T-shirts, towelling beach ponchos over swimsuits, soft jackets worn shrugged open with hands in pockets or loosely belted, like dressing-gowns.

A model wearing a boxy denim top with jeans and sunglasses
Double denim on the Chanel catwalk. Photograph: WWD/Getty Images

There were flip-flops for daytime, flat white Mary Jane sandals for evening, and as many rectangular totes as boxy quilted chain handbags. The Chanel spirit has become resolutely relatable – even if the pricetags, unfortunately, have not.

The set was a take on the modernist Villa Noailles, which perches above the pretty Provencal town of Hyères like a cubist cruise ship. That 40-bedroom house, white concrete walls latticed with vast angular windows placed to frame the best views, was visited by both Coco Chanel and Lagerfeld.

Like Coco Chanel, Charles and Marie-Laure de Noailles were early adopters of sunbathing and sports as fashionable summer pursuits – house guests would arrive to find bathing suits and athletic gear in their rooms, giving no excuse not to join in activities – and the towelling beach poncho in this show could oust the ubiquitous Dryrobe as a wild swimming status symbol next summer.

Villa Noailles, a white concrete house in Hyères, southern France.
The set for the Paris show was a take on the modernist Villa Noailles in Hyères, southern France. Photograph: V Dorosz/Alamy

The abstract show set – just a simple grid of black “windows” giving an audience seated in the centre of the room snapshots of Provencal hillside scenes projected on the outer walls – also reflected the impact Viard has had on Chanel. If Lagerfeld had modelled a show on Villa Noailles, the set would have featured a full-sized swimming pool and squash court, but such extravagance is not Viard’s style.

Chanel’s next fashion show, on 7 December, will be held in Manchester, the first catwalk show by a major luxury house to be held in the city. Chanel’s annual Metiers d’Art collection celebrates the craftsmanship and skills of fashion’s embroiderers, goldsmiths, milliners and corsage-makers. Recent locations for the show, which is held in a different city each year, have included the courthouse of Dakar, Senegal, the Temple of Dendur room in the Metropolitan Museum, New York, and Linlithgow Castle, close to Edinburgh. The exact location for the Manchester show is not yet known.

Chanel recently moved its global head office from Paris to London, where the company is run from a revamped Bond Street HQ. The curators of Gabrielle Chanel: Fashion Manifesto, on show at the V&A, found evidence of a strong relationship between Chanel and garment manufacturers in northern England during the interwar period. A red evening gown made to Coco’s design by the Manchester Velvet Company is included in the exhibition.

Bruno Pavlovsky, the president of fashion at Chanel, described the Manchester location as “audacious and interesting”, adding that all Metiers d’Arts shows had “a big focus on the local customers”.