“I was thinking about eccentric princesses, the kind of women that Karl Lagerfeld liked to accompany at parties or at ‘Le Palace’,” Virginie Viard said of Chanel’s Fall-Winter 2020/21 Haute Couture collection. Looking at the collection, lensed by Mikael Jansson in lieu of a runway show, they were most definitely party girls, but with a haute bent. A Chanel bent, if you will.

Viard spoke of these “punk princesses” emerging from “‘‘Le Palace’ at dawn”, cloaked in feathers and piles of jewellery, hair high and makeup slightly smudged, these denizens of the night would slink out when the sun rose on Lagerfeld’s arm, still looking every bit fabulous. “He would accompany these very sophisticated and very dressed up women, who were very eccentric too,” she mused. “This collection is more inspired by Karl Lagerfeld than Gabrielle Chanel…I really had Karl’s world in mind…”.

And yet, the duality of Gabrielle felt strangely present. On the one hand, the eternal elegance of Gabrielle Chanel and indeed the house at large; on the other, her impudent, rather ferocious Leo spirit, a woman of style and substance, but with bite. Irreverent of Gabrielle, it was clear Viard played on this kind of dichotomy, both elegant and electric, a rock romance of haute proportions.

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Now Virginie Viard’s third solo couture expedition at Chez Chanel, this collection was a little different to the previous two. Both Spring and Fall 2019-2020 saw a certain quietude ushered in at the House, more demure and delicate than her predecessor’s proclivity for theatrics. They were also more blatant in their homage to the house’s founder; revisiting Gabrielle’s monastic past with a pilgrimage back to the convent where she grew up for Spring-Summer, while a cerebral take for Fall celebrated her bookish, brilliant mind. But despite the lack of runway show and the glitzy production that accompanies it, this was Viard’s most dynamic couture collection thus far.

It was electric. High-voltage. Charged. Hard-rock ran through the collection’s veins (or rather seams); slithery, glittery, impactful. Even traditional codes were roughed up a little; precious tweeds were streaked with silver ribbon and embellished with sequins, strass, stones and beads – all at the deft hands of Chanel’s embroidery partners, the Métiers d’art Lesage, Montex, Lemarié and Goossens.

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Bolero jackets were hijacked beautifully with painted lace, while flashes of pink illuminated an otherwise black and anthracite grey palette. Inky black trouser suits were adorned with a kind of diamond-braided armour, while short dresses with cinched waists and corolla skirts rustled alongside majestic long dresses, reminiscent of France’s Grand Siècle period and heroines escaping from 19th century tableaux. Finally, a jacket with an entirely smocked waist was worn over a tapered boot-trouser in black suede, the ultimate sign of Chanel’s rock ballad.

Punkish beauty – kohl-smudged eyes and gravity-defying slicks – persuaded us even more; she was a haute girl with a twinkle in her eye, a wanton woman with a bourgeois bent. She even dripped in jewels from Chanel’s prestigious high jewellery collection, not one for costume jewellery (with the exception of the cabochon stones from Goossens).

“For me, Haute Couture is romantic by its very essence. There is so much love in each one of these silhouettes.” It’s true, Chanel’s new proposition for couture is a highly addictive romance you can’t help but fall in love with.

View the entire Chanel Fall-Winter 2020/21 Haute Couture collection below:

All images courtesy of Chanel

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