The cascading walls of the Grand Palais usually play host to hundreds of guests during Chanel’s resplendent runway shows—but for couture spring-summer ’21, just a handful of familiar faces were scattered across the sparse front row. Lily Rose-Depp and her mother Vanessa Paradis; Charlotte Casiraghi; Marion Cotillard… each sat socially-distanced from one another, as an army of flower crown-wearing models descended the staircase to the frothy tinkling of Linda Ronstadt’s cover of the Ronettes ‘Be My Baby’.
Such was the dramatic staging of Virginie Viard’s latest couture offering, which was unveiled in Paris this afternoon. The whole set up had the old-timey, romantic energy of a debutante ball, but Viard was inspired by a different kind of ceremony: a chic garden wedding. Soft blush dresses, knee-skimming, off-the-shoulder and finished in tweed, or layered silk and tulle day dresses embroidered with gardenias, were the perfect fodder for sunny, springtime nuptials in the South of France—a fact underscored by the vibrant floral archways models walked through and the floor, which was strewn with rose petals.
Of course, this is a Chanel wedding—so things were suitably ramped up a notch (not a single naff lilac taffeta number in sight). A far cry from the traditional wedding march, models stomped along to the ambient synth thrum of Burial, pairing hyper-feminine silhouettes with fishnet stockings, or rocking ab-baring chiffon gowns fixed at the waist with a thin chain of crystals (a rare occasion of body jewellery done right). Models wore sensible double-strapped Mary Janes or pointed-toe ankle boots, hair was slicked-back off the face and makeup—created by global creative makeup and colour director Lucia Pica—was largely natural. Atop their heads were exquisite fresh flower arrangements by Lemarié, the flower and feather artisans who have worked with Chanel since the ’90s.
The accompanying film was created by Anton Corbijn, the Dutch fashion photographer and filmmaker, known for his close relationship with the world of music (he has directed music videos for Depeche Mode and U2 and directed a biopic of Joy Division’s Ian Curtis in 2007). Given that background, it’s likely no coincidence that the music choices spoke directly to the tension points explored in Viard’s clothing. The contrast of Ronstadt and Burial was the contrast of lightness and heaviness, old and young, masculine and feminine. This was evident in the silhouettes—some of which were, to borrow a French phrase, comme des garçons (slouchy trousers, sleeveless tweed suits), while others, sensible prim skirt suits, were more suitable for a chic Parisian doyenne.
Of course, we’d be remiss to discuss a Chanel haute couture show without referencing the famous ‘bride’. In a tradition started by Karl Lagerfeld with Claudia Schiffer in 1991, the final look at the couture shows is always a magnificent ivory gown, often worn by the brand’s preferred model of the moment. Past brides include Linda Evangelista, Lily-Rose Depp, Kendall Jenner, and Adut Akech, and this season the honour went to 20-year-old French model Lola Nicon, a relative newcomer who made her runway debut at the spring-summer ’21 shows in Paris last March.
Nicon entered the runway in particularly dramatic fashion, on the back of a horse, disembarking to reveal a while silk long-sleeved, high-necked gown, complete with delicate embroidery and a cascading embellished veil. It’s all enough to make you swoon—which shouldn’t come as a surprise, seeing as our current moment of global anxiety has inspired an unexpected jump in engagements. In times of trouble, we lean toward the romantic—and is there anything more romantic than a Chanel bride?