“The ABC of CHANEL has always provided a plentifulness of codes and so it continues with Virginie Viard’s 2019/20 Métiers d’art collection. Together with the friend of the House and artistic collaborator on the décor Sofia Coppola, they took it back to 31 rue Cambon – recreating the emblematic Parisian address for an audience of the now and the present. Inside the lofty Grand Palais, an intimate atmosphere greeted the guests as Gabrielle Chanel’s private apartment was truthfully reimagined thanks to the detail-orientated scenography. The set was bathed in the warm hues of the familiar quilted couch, the glow of gilded mirrors, bouquets of wheat and the glint of Chinese Coromandel screens. The purpose of this mise en scène was to recall Mademoiselle’s beloved symbols that would find their way unexpectedly into a collection that celebrates the ateliers of Lesage, Lemarié, Goossens, Montex, Desrues, Lognon, Causse, Maison Michel and Massaro to their fullest capacity. After all, Virginie Viard began her life at CHANEL being in charge of embroideries for Haute Couture, working closely with Lesage, and so it is that the journey comes full circle.

As the chandeliers were slowly lowered onto the stage, models descended down a recreation of the iconic mirrored staircase, reflecting and refracting a collection that was about connecting craft with the reality of a modern wardrobe.

Fine bouclé coats en noir that would have come in handy on this chilly Parisian night were made ornate with chiffon belts of embroidered wheat, chains and ribbons. The tiniest of Lesage-embroidered chains in metallic thread intertwined with chain jewellery blended the boundaries of where a garment and bijoux begin and end. You might have missed the glimpses of degradé feathers peeking from a diaphanous white quilted jacket, but in person and at the Lemarié atelier, it was beautiful to watch them being placed in a tessellated pattern. The height of decoration could be seen in the golden sequinned wheat sheafs on a delicate black tulle cape and a champagne floral lace dress, made three-dimensional together with the lashings of layered costume jewellery. Subtlety is beautiful in Virginie Viard’s eyes and better showcases the intricate skills of these embroiderers, feather and flower makers.

Moreover it’s that insouciant ease that has come to define the Artistic Director’s take on CHANEL. How else to explain a fitted sequinned jumpsuit that looks like a stretch knit? Or the sunset ombré palette that brings its own frivolity in the world of precious skilled hands. Virginie Viard describes herself as the ‘child of Coco and Karl’. It’s fair to say that this first woman at the helm since Gabrielle Chanel is leaving her defining mark with a welcome feminine sensibility seeping into the House and into our heads.”