Colossal camellias, about sixteen feet high, served as the centrepiece for the CHANEL Fall/Winter 2023 show in Paris. But it was already clear from an Inez and Vinoodh teaser featuring actress Nana Komatsu, Virginie Viard had big plans for the flower for the new season.
In a grainy black-and-white photograph taken in 1913, Coco Chanel is seen with a camellia pinned to her belt. It’s said that the flower’s elegant modesty besotted her. With no fragrance or thorns, it is a flower of simplicity, with a layered petal arrangement that makes its soft but sturdy form. Much like CHANEL, its face is sumptuous and beautifully intricate, but its strength is in its consistency.
So, after more than a century of serving as a humble staple within clothes, jewelry, bags, accessories, makeup and beyond, the icon of CHANEL is in focus. But as Viard writes, “the camellia is more than a theme; it’s an eternal code of the house.”
With a presence in every ensemble, Coco’s camellias were liberally employed but executed with Viard’s refined eye. The opening look shows white camellias running up along a trellis on a tweed coat. They initially take on a more obvious use; clustering on the lapel of a leather trench coat; making up the lace patterns on hosiery, serving in silver as buttons on jackets, and swinging on chain bags. Then the camellia takes on new forms, tiling on denim and dresses, coming together as a corsage on pockets, abstractly fused with the interlocking “C” logo in a mod-print in look 24, and distributed as three-dimensional polka dots on cardigans and jackets. The flowers were everywhere, but never too much.
Black, white and gray featured as the core color palette, with bubblegum pink peppered throughout. Looks 40-47 break it up with magenta and darker pinks before scarlet red jumps in for the closing five looks.
Though inspiration came from the archives, the collection was undeniably modern. While CHANEL looks will always have a distinct sense of formality, styling felt down-to-Earth. The collection was punchy and informed, taking a meaningful approach to ready-to-wear in a way that not all luxury houses nail. Viard chose to limit evening wear, with the closing camellia-print silk dresses layered over snug knits and long johns to denote a more everyday wearability. Bottoms were a particular highlight, already filling our heads with ideas for the season ahead. Bermuda cuts, lace bike shorts, tweed pantaloons and asymmetrical skirts put a Viard twist on classic Chanel.