There’s a narrative developing around Chanel that pitches Virginie Viard, who took the Creative Director job three years ago, against Karl Lagerfeld, who ran the house for almost 40 years. Viard inevitably comes off worst. Karl is not an easy act to follow and middle-aged female designers often get a harder time than other male designers whose shows are equally polarising. Sure, she can be patchy. But so could Karl.
Then again, he had wit and loved showboating, mounting elaborate spectacles that you couldn’t help but enjoy. Lagerfeld’s Chanel shows had no expense spared rockets, brasseries and beaches all installed into the venues.
The backdrop for this latest show from Viard, by contrast, consisted of pictures of the hills behind the South of France, a nod to Coco Chanel’s holiday villa, La Pausa. For a brand that set the production bar so high, this was never going to get anyone too excited.
The clothes themselves, like so many shown elsewhere on the catwalks, prioritise lightness and ease, aesthetically and construction wise.
Some of Viard’s outfits can look clunky as total looks – that’s always been the case at Chanel. But drill down to individual pieces and there’s enough to get your teeth into, not just for the Chanel customer, but for anyone looking for ideas over the coming months. She’s also learning that shows can incorporate some diverse body shapes and the sky won’t fall in. That’s more than can be said on some catwalks.
While some of the clothes look familiar, there’s an interesting subtext here about the vocabulary of modern luxury. Jeans, flip flops and vest tops can all punch far above their stations, even compared to a few years ago. That’s partly because brands like Chanel are showing them on catwalks again (Tom Ford did all this at Gucci back in the 1990s but then jeans eventually lost their glamour).
Obviously your jeans don’t have to be Chanel to look smart, but the faded denim here helps change perceptions about its appropriateness in the office – just as Coco changed perceptions about jersey and Breton stripes a century ago. Stand by for versions of the following across the high street:
A striped co-ord
The stripy dress has become a chic summer-in-the-city ally (thanks to Gabriela Hearst’s original version at Chloe a few seasons ago). The co-ord gives it new versatility and Jill Kortleve proves you don’t have to be a size zero to look good in horizontal stripes.
The knitted dress
Striped tube dresses have been a big hit at lots of design houses. Gold, silver and stretchy, this couldn’t be more current. But it’s also a classic in the making, good for so many occasions – and with sleeves. Bound to be crazily expensive, but theoretically you’d never need another dress.
The sparkly ballet pump
Second-hand Azzedine Alaia flat, crystal smothered leather Mary Janes are currently changing hands for £1,300 online – a nice return on the original RRP of £790. Now entering its second year, the Cinderella slipper is more popular than ever. Miu Miu has them, as does Loeffler Randall – and the high street. It makes sense for Chanel to take over from here, morphing its classic pump into something ultra glittery.
The maxi hipster skirt
Does it have pockets? Is it slouchy? Is it in a fabric that can go up and down the register? All questions that should be on your checklist for an item that not so long ago seemed quite niche but which is becoming more and more useful.
The beach suit
Either the workplace has reached new levels of casualness, or pool side dressing has become insanely competitive. Either way, there’s a place for tailored “basics” – or rather many places. If shorts are a no-no you can still achieve the right pitch of easy glamour by wearing an oversized shirt with double cuffs with a pair of matching trousers over a camisole.