“The love of books runs like a fil rouge throughout the House of CHANEL, its history underlined by a cultivated esprit, an appreciation for knowledge and a sentiment for the finesse of haute artistic expression. Mademoiselle Chanel’s revolutionary approach to fashion was nurtured by her love of elegant words and by her passion for the enthralling magic of poetry, which makes the imagination soar and vibrate, opening new landscapes of possibilities and exploration.

For her solo Haute Couture debut, Virginie Viard paid a touching yet breathtaking homage to the beating heart of Mademoiselle’s legacy, transforming the Grand Palais into a rendition of her private library, a blown-up, monumental replica of the one lining the walls in her Parisian apartment at 31 rue Cambon. Yet, despite the magnificence of the round-shaped decor, the atmosphere at the show felt welcoming, enveloping, immersive and soothing, as only the reading of a good book can be. And how Karl Lagerfeld would’ve loved it, his immense appetite for knowledge barely placated by the thousands of tomes lovingly cocooned in his own staggering bibliothèque.

In the CHANEL lineage of book lovers, Viard has now inscribed her name, as if reconnecting the dots of a genealogy of artistic talents.

Such splendid, metaphorical set felt like the perfect shrine for the Haute Couture collection, whose calm purity of lines resonated with the echo of the clarity of thought gracing good writers and gifted raconteurs. Looks had the fluidity and ease of a sophisticated turn of phrase, outlined with a sensuous 1930s allure yet filtered through a modern attitude, further highlighted by the models’ relaxed, leisurely pace — hands thrust into pockets, as if taking their time to wander in the meditative space.

The sharp, exacting eye of Coco Chanel and her flair for elegant seduction seemed to naturally translate into the fluid, slender silhouettes favoured by Viard, the finesse of the savoir-faire of the Haute Couture ateliers and CHANEL’s Métiers d’art only enhancing the nonchalant perfection of their allure. They exuded an appealing sense of cool and modernity, very much aligned with Mademoiselle’s penchant for sophisticated ease, its timeless appeal still so relevant today.

How beautiful and chic and comfortable the girls looked in their slender floor-sweeping tweed coatdresses, soft and lithe as robes; in the high-waisted pants paired with abbreviated or slim-fitted versions of the signature CHANEL jacket; in the seductive evening dresses, concocted by the incomparable maîtrise of the flou ateliers. Walking with calm grace wearing flats, they were the epitome of modern, effortless, luxurious chic. Mademoiselle, with her formidable, implacable eye, would have certainly approved.”