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Renaissance at the Château of Chanel?

The Metiers d’Art collection Virginie Viard presented this evening, though superb in its craftsmanship, reflected a recipe that has become stuffy, writes Angelo Flaccavento.
Chanel Métiers d'Art 2021. Chanel.
Chanel Métiers d'Art 2021. Chanel.

A fashion show staged in the chequerboard-floored grand gallery of a beautiful French castle — the Château de Chenonceau, known as the “Château des Dames” — broadcasted digitally, yet physically attended by a single spectator, Kristen Stewart: that says a lot about the peculiar cul de sac fashion currently inhabits.

There is no way to replicate the wonder of such a space, even though the Juergen Teller-lensed photographic book sent to guests was a visual treat to behold. What is inevitably lost in translation is the scale of the place, the sense of the physicality and the amazement it would undoubtedly bring. But this disconnect is a condition of pandemic fashion.

The fact is, Chanel seems to have entered an era of disconnection, too. The Metiers d’Art collection artistic director Virginie Viard presented this evening, though superb in its craftsmanship, had no link to either the contemporary world or the history of the castle, which was the historic mansion of Renaissance women like Caterina de’ Medici, whose emblem was a very fitting double C.

Style wise, sure, there were a lot of Renaissance-like ruffles and quilting and armour-like constructions that recalled the era, not to mention the veiled hats. But it all felt very costume-y, even ‘B-movie’ dare I say, mixed as it was with something rock, something coquettish, a lot of 1980s and a very formulaic take on Chanel.

Where were Chanel’s sense of ease and modernity and, in spirit at least, the womanly power of the Chateau’s past inhabitants? If the Chateau was a testament to feminine strength, well there was very little of that in the clothes, which felt heavy and heavily styled and quite stuffed, save for a few streamlined tailleurs which were the highlights.

A woman who built her own persona and success, Gabrielle Chanel envisioned clothing for the modern woman. Of late, under Virginie Viard’s tenure, the recipe has gotten a little too stuffy, a little too contrived and frankly a bit heavy. Some svelteness would help. After all, for being a grand castle, the Château des Dames had a certain svelteness, too. It was pompous, but light. And lightness goes a long way.

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