“Outside the Grand Palais, the Paris sky was crystal clear and the air was cold and crisp. Inside, filtered through the building’s soaring glass dome, the sharp midday light had softened upon a veritable springtime scene: an evocation of the cloister garden of the Cistercian Abbey of Aubazine.

Shrubs of lavender and rosemary, clusters of roses and jasmine, a plot of purple kale and leaves of chard, and a trellis of delicately suspended tomatoes appeared as though they had been growing in this garden for ages. There were weathered stone benches and a central fountain from which water flowed. As guests arrived, the greenness of the plants, the earthy ground cover and a trace of floral fragrance lingered in the air. Was this what Gabrielle Chanel would have smelled in her years at the abbey’s orphanage? Did she visit the garden to daydream?

In this tranquil space, envisioned by Virginie Viard for the CHANEL Spring-Summer 2020 Haute Couture show, the evocation of memory felt at once intimate and wondrous. As the models arrived through screens of sheets that had been arranged like bed linens hanging out to dry, each silhouette seemed to be an interwoven assertion of innocence and maturity. The House’s infinite translations of black and white can be traced back to this period of Gabrielle Chanel’s life. If the black dress worn by Gigi Hadid referenced this sobriety in plainest terms, the collection also played out with modernity and ease.

There were the collars — from pelerine to Peter Pan — that referenced classic school uniforms; only now, they had been rendered in exquisite lace and embroideries. Harmonies of tulle and tweed cast the structured looks with lightness. Interlacing patterns against a sequin pastel backdrop were the very essence of sunlight streaming through stained glass windows.

When reflecting on what makes beauty timeless, simplicity and sophistication come to one’s mind. As models took their final walk to the up-tempo music, it seemed that Virginie Viard was honouring this fundamental CHANEL narrative. From that secret garden have the inspirations and creations bloomed forth.”



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