A wave of anticipation rushed over showgoers as they filed into the Grand Palais for Virginie Viard’s debut Chanel haute couture collection—just as one anticipates turning the page to a new chapter of a book. As expected, the venue was unrecognizably transformed, this time into a library with floor-to-ceiling bookshelves inspired by Gabrielle Chanel’s Rue de Cambon studio. But otherwise no one knew what to expect from the show.
At first glance, the collection looked like a Chanel show of yore. Drop-waisted skirts, floor-skimming coat dresses and wide-collared jackets referenced Mademoiselle Gabrielle’s Chanel. But, despite the historical reminiscence, Viard’s debut couture collection felt simultaneously refreshing, partly due to its stark simplicity.
Models strolled around the library’s rotunda in flat loafers with nonchalant ease—that aspirational French je ne sais quoi attitude about them. Smart suits and bow tie details gave their wearer an air of bookish chicness while ruffled collars and flowing skirts were timelessly elegant without trying too hard. Two looks in particular—green tweed overalls and the final look, a silk-pajama-and-robe clad bride—felt especially laid back but at the same time completely put together.
Through her no-frills first couture collection, Viard introduced the world to the new Chanel woman. A woman whose style is effortlessly chic, who enjoys luxury but takes pleasure in the simpler things in life, and whose intelligence is equally as beautiful as her appearance. A woman who should be celebrated and who should celebrate herself.
In the hallowed halls of the Grand Palais’ makeshift library, Virginie Viard accomplished what Chanel’s only other female creative director, the legendary Coco Chanel herself, did years before; design garments that empower their wearer and liberate them from society’s expectations. In Viard’s case, she showed the Chanel woman that fashion does not need to be forced. Instead there is an inherent beauty that comes from the knowledge possessed within and sometimes simplicity is the best way to show it.
As Virgine Viard stepped onto the library’s upper balcony to humbly nod in lieu of a final bow, onlookers were left with one final question; does Viard’s appointment mark a new chapter in Chanel’s history book or is it perhaps a sequel, once again with a female protagonist at the helm of the house?