It was Coco herself who said that fashion reflects the world we live in. But while much of fashion week reflects the current era of controversy and outrage – at Schiaparelli, a foam lion’s head worn by Kylie Jenner has caused furor on social media from animal lovers in distress, until Peta’s president unexpectedly comes to the couture rescue, saying the look “celebrates the beauty of the lion” – Chanel is the quiet eye of the storm.
Virginie Viard, who replaced the great showman Karl Lagerfeld at Chanel four years ago, introduced a sober atmosphere here. Animals in Coco’s elegant Parisian apartment – where marble lions stood guard alongside pairs of carved wooden stags, and a lucky golden frog took pride of place on a coffee table – were the theme of her latest haute couture show.
Unlike Schiaparelli’s Instagram bait about the Kardashians and faux taxidermy, Chanel’s camels, deer and Trojan birds were abstract plywood sculptures by artist Xavier Veilhan, and the models emerging from them wore costumes. in tweed with demure sequins. The drama came with a touch of levity, in circus master top hats and bow ties worn as necklaces.
Nevertheless, Chanel will have the lion’s share of the spotlight this year. A major exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum in New York honoring the career of Lagerfeld, who spent four decades at Chanel, will be followed by a major retrospective of Coco herself at the V&A in London later this year. Backstage before the show, Chanel fashion president Bruno Pavlovsky said he had “seen the layout of the Met exhibit – it’s fantastic. I worked with Karl for many years and he always talked about the latest Met show. He really loved the museum.
Pavlovsky was also waiting to find out which of Chanel’s red carpet ambassadors would receive Oscar nominations. Last year was a successful awards season for Chanel, which dressed Best Actress nominees Kristen Stewart and Penélope Cruz.
“We have fantastic actors who can help speak our brand, so any time we can help them be their best is really important to us,” Pavlovsky said. “We try to position ourselves as a supporting partner – it’s about whatever they want, whenever they want.”
Chanel’s relationship with Hollywood began in 1931, when Gabrielle Chanel was invited by movie mogul Sam Goldwyn, who sent a welcoming party including Greta Garbo to meet her from his train.
Chanel will host a major Cruise show in Los Angeles in May, a week after the Met Gala launches the Lagerfeld exhibit. “In New York, we’re celebrating Karl’s 40th birthday – then we’re heading straight to LA to show off a new collection and talk about the future. It’s going to be a busy week for everyone, especially with [the coronation of] Charles III between the two. But you can’t be Chanel just by staying in an apartment on the first floor of the 1st arrondissement of Paris.
In September, the V&A will showcase “modern style from an era when star designers, including Mademoiselle Chanel, defined modern fashion so much,” Pavlovsky said. “For me, there is no contradiction between the past and the future of Chanel.”