Chanel staged its fall haute couture show in a horse-riding center on the outskirts of Paris, but this, as they say, wasn’t Virginie Viard’s first rodeo.
The designer had vague memories of staging a show at a similar venue when Karl Lagerfeld was creative director of the French luxury house and she was his right hand. And of course, Charlotte Casiraghi opened Chanel’s last couture show in January on horseback.
“I like it when a show harks back to something we’ve already done at Chanel,” Viard, who’s been at the brand for more than 30 years, said during a preview. “I like those resonances.”
Her way of concocting collections is instinctive: no crisp storytelling or specific references here. The mix this season included her second collaboration with Xavier Veilhan on the show set, which again mixed constructivist and equestrian references, and incorporated a film of Chanel ambassador Pharrell Williams playing drums.
Horsey touches wound their way into the collection, too. Midi-length tweed skirt suits were paired with black cowboy boots, and some were topped with matching wide-brimmed hats — a reminder that Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel started her career as a milliner.
There were coats for every occasion, from a navy military greatcoat that split open to reveal sheer chiffon panels dusted with sequins and tiny ostrich feathers, to a ‘60s-style buttoned-up coat dress in an ajouré of pink wool braids.
Viard worked a long silhouette, with lace and chiffon column dresses inspired by Chanel’s creations in the ‘30s, and accessorized some of the looks with pieces from the brand’s latest high jewelry collection, a tribute to the “Bijoux de Diamants” collection created by the founder in 1932.
Bruno Pavlovsky, president of fashion and president of Chanel SAS, said it was one of the only brands to be able to present haute couture and high jewelry side by side. “There’s a wow effect at Chanel,” he said. “It was very daring to develop both haute couture and jewelry, and Mademoiselle Chanel was the first to do it.”
The brand has been in the news lately for reportedly planning to open dedicated boutiques for top-spending clients in Asia. Pavlovsky clarified that the idea was not to open separate stores, but to upgrade and expand its existing private salons, which are attached to boutiques and designed to accommodate VIP shoppers when store traffic is high.
The first to be upgraded is the private salon of its store at the SKP shopping mall in Beijing, which receives up to 1,000 visitors a day. Chanel has commissioned star architect Peter Marino to redesign the space, opened in 2020, which sits on a different floor from the boutique due to a lack of available space at the location.
Similar VIP changing rooms exist in Paris, London and Hong Kong.
“But before opening deconnected salons, when we open a new store, we will try to obtain more space and to host those salons within the boutique,” Pavlovsky said. “Our clients want to come to the store, they want to feel the energy and see the assortment, so you don’t head straight to the private salon without passing through the store.”
The haute couture salon in Paris, where customers order made-to-measure creations, is of course the most exclusive store of all. To cater to this elite crowd, Viard made sure to include plenty of chic eveningwear options, with standouts including a black velvet trouser suit paired with the dazzling Soleil Doré necklace and fastened with the Soleil Talisman brooch.
For the bridal finale, however, no such flourishes: Jill Kortleve was the picture of pastoral charm in a white bustier dress and fringed shawl.