The Palais Galliera, located in Paris’ 16th arrondissement, is the first permanent exhibition dedicated to the history of fashion in Paris. Their archive is expansive, including bodices once belonging to Marie Antoinette and pieces dating back to the 18th century, while their façade and interiors have recently been painstakingly restored to their former glory by the house of Chanel. A retrospective dedicated to Gabrielle ‘Coco’ Chanel’s contribution to Parisian history—Gabrielle Chanel: Fashion Manifesto—is showing there until July 18th.
It’s no surprise, then, that Virginie Viard picked the Palais to showcase her latest haute couture offering for the house of Chanel. The Fall / Winter 2021-2022 collection was unveiled in Paris this afternoon to a smattering of mask-wearing guests, and live-streamed globally in a film made in partnership with Sofia and Roman Coppola (the former joined the likes of Caroline de Maigret, Carole Bouquet, and Daisy Edgar-Jones in the front row).
For a collection set to be unveiled in the walls of a sprawling, art-lined palace, Viard opted to take inspiration from iconic French painters. Bethe Morisot, an impressionist painter and the sister-in-law of Édouard Manet, and the Cubist Marie Larencin—a contemporary of Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, and of Mademoiselle Chanel herself—were the two artists she name-checked while citing the collection’s references. Dresses covered in delicately appliqued flowers mirror the colour palette of Monet’s watercolours (and evoke the feeling of being in the so-called ‘Monet room’ in the Musée de l’Orangerie), jackets blossom with English garden flowers, and whispy feather details evoke brush strokes.
Of course, a couture collection is always a celebration of the work of the maison’s artisans, and Chanel has long partnered with some of the most esteemed artisans in Paris. Their work—including embroidery from the likes of Lesage and Atelier Montex, flowers from Lemarie, and headwear from Maison Michel—was front and centre, including a remarkable gardenia-embellished cropped jacket, which took 2000 hours to create by hand.
Chanel’s haute couture collections always culminate with a bridal look modelled by a muse of the house—a tradition dating back to Chanel’s late creative director Karl Lagerfeld. Recent ‘Chanel brides’ have included supermodels Adut Akech and Kendall Jenner, house muse Lily-Rose Depp and up-and-coming French model Lola Nicon. Today, brand ambassador and Once Upon A Time… in Hollywood actress Margaret Qualley was given the honour, wearing a minimalist high-necked pale pink satin gown and veil, closing off the show to a round of applause.
For the brand’s first in-person runway show in more than a year, the collection presented an uplifting, optimistic vision for the Chanel woman as she embarks on a post-pandemic world. Wrapped in luxe tweed and sporting a rock n’ roll braided mohawk, the future is hers for the taking.