Chanel’s runway shows are among the most theatrical and memorable in all fashion’s history. So how does one go about staging an iconic show, when no invitees are able to attend? Virginie Viard pulled off the impossible overnight when she debuted her Métiers d’Art ’21 show at the Château de Chenonceau, a sprawling gothic-style castle called in the Loire Valley, a picturesque town two hours south of Paris.
Models, including Vittoria Ceretti and Othilia Simon, debuted the collection through the Chateau’s empty halls—empty, save for a single attendee. Kristen Stewart, a long-time muse of the brand’s, sat perched on a front row she occupied solo. Later, Jeurgen Teller photographed the collection with a series of striking portraits taken beside the River Loire. With the exclusively black-and-white colour palette, and romantic, whimsical silhouettes, the images felt like they belonged in a very chic children’s tale.
In fact, fairytales, princesses, and Disney films were all playing on creative director Virginie Viard’s mind when she began designing this collection. Perhaps inspired by the show’s setting (the location was picked earlier in the year when having an IRL show was still on the cards), Viard described the collection as “a little princess-y!” to Vogue. The end result? Tiered silk dresses, lashings of pearls, and—perhaps most surprisingly—Middle Ages-style Hennin headpieces.
Other highlights included chessboard sequin miniskirts, which mirrored the floor the models walked on and were worn over shiny lurex and velvet leggings (like we needed any more evidence that the Noughties renaissance is upon us). Then there was the impeccably tailored tweed short suits, the quilted leather jacket, the floor-skimming coats, and the truly cult-worthy knits (the latter being the perfect antidote for underwhelming #WFH Zoom calls).
Viard was particularly inspired by the former female inhabitants of the Chateau, which lent a subtle air of subversive feminine empowerment to the collection. “I was learning about who’s lived here and who’s loved this place, and it’s shifted hands primarily between women,” Kristen Stewart told WWD. “And I was just telling Virginie, it felt like the story was folding in on itself. The women who lived here before were really into art, and promoted a lot of creativity, and loved to be inspired and inspire other people to come create, and I was imagining who our characters were while watching the show. I’m always proud of her, but it felt very personal this time.”
In this past year, fashion has largely moved into ‘pragmatic’ territory, as we nestled into a life confined to the four walls of our home. But as we look optimistically toward 2021, our appetites for beauty, craftsmanship, romance, and whimsy are all rapidly returning. If anything is likely to pull us out of our quarantine style rut, it’s a remarkable Chanel fashion show.