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Chanel and French Impressionism: Autumn-Winter Haute Couture collection

The Grand Palais glittered at the unveiling of Chanel’s Haute Couture A/W collection. 240 guests waited in anticipation, surrounded by the all-white Romanesque style columns of the Palais for this long-awaited event of the year. Chanel’s January show for their Spring 2021 couture collection was far more intimate. To keep in line with COVID-19 restrictions, only CHANEL ambassador’s were the audience. ‘Today, we begin again,’ remarked Bruno Pavlovsky, Chanel’s president of fashion. ‘It is good to be able to have an audience but not too big – we need to keep it exclusive, to keep it safe. We chose this venue because it has some shelter but also ventilation. It is reassuring for everyone to be outside, at the moment and we want our guests to be comfortable.’

Virginie Viard’s A/W Haute Couture exhibited a sense of the past and present, with an array of pieces which allude to the brand’s signature look, tweed (the staple of Chanel’s heritage). The show opened with a grey and salmon threaded tweed overcoat paired with a striking feather skirt. The following looks were ensembles of blue and grey tweed co-ords (very Jackie Kennedy-esque)an androgynous pairing of a tiered feather skirt with a short-waisted tweed military jacket added a slight variation to the feminine silhouette.

‘It’s a pure haute couture collection’ says Pavlovsky, ‘You have to feel strong to be able to present a collection in a place where, 10 metres away, you have the best collections of Mademoiselle Chanel. I hope that in 50 years you’ll see Virginie’s collections in the museum.’

The entire mode of Viard’s collection is inspired by the history of Impressionism in France, an artistic movement inspired by painters such as Monet and Renoir. Viard was initially taken aback by a set of photographs of Gabrielle Chanel clothed in 19th-century bustles and crinolines. Despite Monet and Renoir being at the helm of French impressionism, Viard was inspired by two female artists – Berthe Morisot and Marie Laurencin, who also created a portrait of Coco Chanel.

Picture credit: Wikipedia

In this collection, the waist is not emphasised. The structural formation of the garments expanded outwards and each model had black bows adorning their hair which added a soft, provincial Parisian look. Black and white cap-toed slingbacks were the signature footwear and although the collection’s palette was primarily monochromatic, Viard also presented us with ensembles of contrasting colours. One of the central pieces we saw this displayed within were Chanel’s tweed sets, which interweave primary colours and black chiffon dresses which featured 1960s floral embroidery.

‘I love seeing colour in the greyness of winter,’ Viard said. ‘I really wanted a particularly colourful collection that was very embroidered, something warm.’

Viard has also envisioned more daring, modern Marie Antoinette-inspired chemise dresses which are light, almost lingerie-esque. One piece which stood out to me was a floor-length monochrome pleated gown with tulle, ruffles and bows, finished off with a classic white wide-brimmed sun hat.

 Margaret Qualley in Chanel Bridal Couture
Picture credit: Vogue Runway

Finishing off with the piece-de-la-resistance, my favourite look from the entire collection, a Chanel bridal gown worn by the actress Margaret Qualley. Chanel’s bridal dress is a petal pink crepe, gown with long puff sleeve, a boat neckline, floaty skirt, finished with a polka dot veil and black pillbox hat and pink bow which is reminiscent of Hubert de Givenchy’s bridal creation for Audrey Hepburn in the film Funny Face.

Picture credit: L’Offieciel

Many of the pieces were adorned with work from beloved french embroidery houses such as Lesage, Cecile Henri and Atelier Montex. They replicated the exquisite artworks which envision delicate blooms and petals, bouffant skirts made of tweed are combined with ruffles and ribbons and lace camisole dresses. 

My Top Looks: 

Look No.5
Picture credit: © Alessandro Lucioni

Look No. 20
Picture credit: © Alessandro Lucioni

Look No. 27
Picture credit: © Alessandro Lucioni

Look No. 32
Picture credit: © Alessandro Lucioni

Look No. 34
Picture credit: © Alessandro Lucioni

Fruzsina Vida is the Arts & Culture Editor at The Yorker. If you have any questions or queries, please contact her at arts@theyorker.co.uk.