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Chanel Was The Unlikely Star of Paris Fashion Week

Thanks to decades of legacy, we’ve reached a point in the fashion world where the terms “Chanel” and “Paris Fashion Week” are essentially synonymous. Both cultural institutions in their own right, the entities become co-reliant when it comes time for presentation–in the same sense that a music festival would only survive if it featured the same main act every year.

In the final years of Karl Lagerfeld’s reign, Chanel had reached an untouchable sweet spot, essentially being granted tenure by the fashion community. It quickly fell away into a bliss of tweed sets and gold accents, collection after collection “paying homage” to the old Chanel. With the advent of newcomer brands and a step towards a more eclectic fashion worldview, Chanel did seemingly very little to keep up. While they made waves with their inventive set design – (see The Brasserie Gabrielle, the Chanel Supermarket, and the Chanel Casino) – the clothes themselves left much to be desired.

Enter Virginie Viard, Lagerfeld’s successor as head designer of Chanel, entrusted with ushering Chanel into the newly digital and always-changing world of fashion. Since entering the house in 2019 following Lagerfeld’s death, Viard has been finding her footing as the brain behind the brand. Since her tentative Resort 2020 collection, the designer has gained confidence and intention through subsequent shows, transporting audiences from a couture-ridden library in Fall 2019 Couture to a matrimonial affair at Spring 2021 Couture to a chic après-ski at Fall 2021 Ready-to-Wear.

Now, with the Spring 2022 Ready-to-Wear collection, spectators are treated to a fashion junket that is pure fun, specifically designed to “recapture the emotion” of the halcyon days of modern fashion: the 1990s. Models pranced and puckered to the end of the runway, posing for famed photographers Inez and Vinoodh, who greeted the girls with a flourish of flashbulbs and frames. Simultaneously kitschy and classy, the collection featured ensembles and accessories very carefully reverent of 90s-era Chanel: purses shaped as N°5 bottles, faux denim, and Chanel-printed briefs and accessories à-la-logomania. Breaking away from the black and whites that populated the majority of the collection were the 1920s bohème-style dresses, boyish and loose-hanging and a stylistic nod to Chanel’s roots.

From the classic Chanel tweed to bohemian stylings to briefs, bathing suits, and leather overalls, Viard rooted the collection in homage and intention while offering a modern slate of stylings. Utilizing historical context in conjunction with futuristic musings, Virginie Viard succeeded in presenting a show that was truly Chanel, in every sense of the word.

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