What could a conceptual camel be doing at Chanel couture? This riddle – the first sight to greet the audience as they entered – can easily be solved by searching Coco Chanel’s apartment on Google. What quickly emerges are photos of Chanel at her rue Cambon home, with a model camel on a sideboard, large bronze deer figures clustered around her fireplace, and effigies of lions here, there and everywhere. Virginie Viard had a one-on-one with artist Xavier Veilhan to come up with an idea for the decor for the spring couture show in said apartment and, you can imagine, they must have looked around and said to each other ” let’s go animals!”
Hey hop! A playful idea that put Viard in the swing of a theme – a parade of something between pretty Chanel drum majorettes, or perhaps, circus ring masters. They donned their cropped, flared suits with the odd top hat and bow tie, shod in little white crossover lace-up boots with Chanel’s signature black-tipped toes. At the time, they were strolling through Veilhan’s menagerie of moving animal sculptures – a horse, lion, deer, buffalo, bird, fish, dog and elephant – which had been deployed to join the camel.
Still, it’s not in Viard’s nature as a creative director to push a concept on clothing. Instead, here’s a high fashion collection that felt youthful. The spectacle of her marching majorettes simply became a way to freshen up the jig of Chanel daytime suits, led by a charming number in a military jacket in white.
Next came varieties of abbreviated, gold Chanel tweeds: a cropped A-line coat, mini-cut, box-pleated skirts, and then a tiny candy-pink coat-dress with a high neck. It was maybe a bit 60s Mod, but not too obviously.
Proceeding “not too obviously” could in fact be Viard’s motto. This was so when the collection shifted from a short, sweet daywear to a long, slim evening wear. In this sequence, there was a chic and neat short-sleeved tweed coat in parma purple, worn with white leather opera gloves, and long tight dresses with small polka dots and black or white lace.
When asked afterwards if she thought of the 1930s with those languid dresses, Viard gave the impression that vintage Chanel collections hadn’t crossed her mind. “No,” she said, shrugging. “That silhouette might make you think so, but no.”
Back to his reluctance to engage with themes, again. Of course, there is no rule that designers should stick to high concepts. Sometimes, truth be told, they can really get in the way of designers who are just designing clothes for modern life. Instead, Viard is a designer’s kind of “modern wardrobe for real women.” Her collections are not fantasy, even if she knows how to evoke the magic of sewing workshops to make pieces that look like snowy and frothy whipped cream.
And then, at the finale, the bride came out of a hidden door in the elephant. She wore a little white dress completely covered with embroidered doves and a white bow tie. It was a light, simple and rather charming moment. Just like the spirit of the rest of the show.