Chanel’s elegant show is the quiet eye of a Twitter storm at Paris fashion week

Virginie Viard introduces an understated mood with animals of Coco’s Paris apartment, in contrast to Kardashians in faux-taxidermy

It was Coco herself who said fashion reflects the world we live in. But while much of fashion week holds up a mirror to the current era of roiling controversy and outrage – at Schiaparelli, a foam lion’s head worn by Kylie Jenner provoked social media fury from distressed animal lovers, until the president of Peta rode unexpectedly to couture’s rescue by saying the look “celebrates lion’s beauty” – Chanel is the quiet eye of the storm.

Virginie Viard, who replaced the great showman Karl Lagerfeld at Chanel four years ago, has introduced an understated mood here. The animals of Coco’s elegant Paris apartment – where marble lions stood guard alongside pairs of carved wooden deer, and a lucky gold frog took pride of place on a coffee table – were the theme for her latest haute couture show.

Chanel’s haute couture spring-summer 2023-2024 collection at Paris fashion week on Tuesday.
Chanel’s haute couture spring-summer 2023-2024 collection at Paris fashion week on Tuesday. Photograph: Stéphane de Sakutin/AFP/Getty Images

In contrast to Schiaparelli’s Instagram-bait of Kardashians and faux-taxidermy, the Trojan camels, stags and birds at Chanel were abstract plywood sculptures by artist Xavier Veilhan, and the models who emerged from them wore demure glitter tweed suits. Drama came with a light touch, in circus-master top hats and bow ties worn as chokers.

Nonetheless, Chanel will have the lion’s share of the spotlight this year. A major exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum in New York honouring 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’s president of fashion, Bruno Pavlovsky, said he had “seen the layout of the Met exhibition – it is fantastic. I worked with Karl for many years, and he was forever talking about the latest Met show. He really loved the museum.”

Pavlovsky was also waiting to discover which of Chanel’s red carpet ambassadors would receive Oscar nominations. Last year was a successful award season for Chanel, who dressed best actress nominees Kristen Stewart and Penélope Cruz.

Looks from Chanel’s show at Paris fashion week.
Looks from Chanel’s show at Paris fashion week. Photograph: Stéphane de Sakutin/AFP/Getty Images

“We have fantastic actors who can help talk about our brand, so anytime when we can help them to be at their best is very important for us,” Pavlovsky said. “We try to position ourselves as a supportive partner – it is a case of whatever they want, when they want it.”

Chanel’s relationship with Hollywood began in 1931, when Gabrielle Chanel was invited by movie mogul Sam Goldwyn, who sent a welcoming party that included Greta Garbo to meet her from her train.

Understated elegance at the Chanel show on Tuesday.
Understated elegance at the Chanel show on Tuesday. Photograph: Xinhua/Rex/Shutterstock

Chanel will stage a major Cruise catwalk show in Los Angeles in May, one week after the Met Gala launches the Lagerfeld exhibition. “In New York, we celebrate 40 years of Karl – and then we head straight to LA to show a new collection and talk about the future. It will be a busy week for everyone, especially with [the coronation of] Charles III in between. But you cannot 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 “the modern style of an era when star designers, of who Mademoiselle Chanel was one, defined so much of modern fashion”, said Pavlovsky. “For me, there is no contradiction between the past and future of Chanel.”


Jess Cartner-Morley in Paris

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Karl Lagerfeld receives Paris honour at Chanel's greatest hits show
German designer awarded city’s highest award as autumn/winter haute couture collection deploys classic Chanelisms

Hannah Marriott Fashion editor

04, Jul, 2017 @3:42 PM

Article image
Paris fashion week: Chanel show is theatre, not catwalk
Karl Lagerfeld opts for monochrome and pastel in fantasy garden setting

Imogen Fox in Paris

05, Oct, 2010 @3:52 PM

Article image
Viard displays quiet savoir-faire at first Chanel couture show
Designer nods to predecessors Coco Chanel and Karl Lagerfeld at Paris fashion week

Jess Cartner-Morley in Paris

02, Jul, 2019 @2:42 PM

Article image
Chanel at Paris fashion week: a cool collection inspired by art

Karl Lagerfeld keeps Chanel relevant by weaving the codes – tweed, chain, pearls and quilting – into a new theme, which for spring/summer 2014 is art

Lauren Cochrane

01, Oct, 2013 @1:54 PM

Article image
‘We prefer a dream over controversy’: Chanel at Paris fashion week
Label’s collection by Virginie Viard is based on Coco Chanel’s designs for 1961 film Last Year at Marienbad

Jess Cartner-Morley

04, Oct, 2022 @1:52 PM

Article image
Chanel and Louis Vuitton veer between future and past
Evocative shows by two of fashion’s biggest names light up a bizarre Paris season

Jess Cartner-Morley

06, Oct, 2020 @5:51 PM

Article image
Kanye West stirs controversy in ‘White Lives Matter’ T-shirt at Paris fashion week
Rapper referenced Kim Kardashian’s 2016 robbery and Gap fallout at Yeezy Season 9 show that featured Naomi Campbell

Jess Cartner-Morley in Paris

04, Oct, 2022 @9:55 AM

Article image
Lanvin looks back to go forward in chic Paris fashion week show
Designer Bruno Sialelli draws on couture house’s rich history to deliver a solid collection

Hannah Marriott

26, Feb, 2020 @4:43 PM

Article image
Chanel airlines takes flight at Paris fashion week
Airport motifs came thick and fast as Karl Lagerfeld transformed Grand Palais into a chic departure lounge with a sprinkle of Chanel fairy dust

Imogen Fox in Paris

06, Oct, 2015 @1:51 PM

Article image
Paris fashion week spring/summer 2014: 10 things we learned
Biker jackets, patchwork jeans and Quality Street yellow … as Paris fashion week wraps up, here are some of the highlights

Jess Cartner-Morley

01, Oct, 2013 @6:10 PM