Virginie Viard made a classy and elegant debut in her first complete collection for Chanel Friday after taking over from the late Karl Lagerfeld at the iconic French label.
The designer, who was Lagerfeld’s right-hand woman for years, emerged from his shadow with a highly feminine and wearable cruise collection in a minimalist show at the Grand Palais in Paris, the scene of the Kaiser’s most decadent extravaganzas.
Where Lagerfeld was flashy and streetwise, his successor was restrained, with the bling factor turned right down in favour of a flattering slimline look.
Instead she harked back to the golden age of train travel when the brand’s founder Coco Chanel would take her arty friends on the “Train bleu” down to her villa on the French Riviera near Monaco.
But instead of recreating a life-sized locomotive or the Orient Express inside the vast Grand Palais as Lagerfeld might have, Viard went with an understated train platform with the front row either side of a recessed train track.
There was, however, an affectionate nod to her predecessor, who died aged 85 in February, with a couple of starched white collars which were a key component of Lagerfeld’s own highly recognisable personal look.
With the heavily pregnant Hollywood star Keira Knightley in the front row, and Taiwanese actress Hannah Quinlivan and singer Jay Chou also looking on, Viard made a clever grab to steal the femininity mantle of arch-rivals Dior.
With cruise collections all about looking chic as you go off on holiday, Viard said “travelling across the world is part of Chanel’s spirit” and she wanted to create a silhouette that was all about movement.
– Practical chic –
Nothing showed off her new practical elegance more than a cobalt blue jacket with layer after layer of pockets set off with a white band across the chest tied in a bow.
It was worn with two-tone pointed boots — two-tone shoes were ever-present in the collection — and a classic Chanel black handbag expanded out into a travel bag.
Jackets and generous garbardine trousers fastened with double buttons at the waist were inspired by work uniforms, and hooded trenchcoats were feminised with chain belts.
The railway theme found its way into the clothes with the mechanism of station clocks popping up on dresses and a clutch bag in the form of a railway worker’s lamp.
Beyond the classic Chanel blacks, creams and whites, Viard lifted the collection’s subdued colour palette with luminous pinks, greens and eggshell blues.
Red poppies, blue cornflowers and delicately embroidered pink flowers popped up on dresses and check tops, and were also used as a contrast to the label’s traditional tweed twin-sets.
Viard also debuted a new version of the Chanel jacket paired with leggings sparkling with the label’s logo as well as miniskirts and knickerbockers, with tweed culottes ending at the knee.
The same modern touch popped up in two-tone heels, with black stilettos livened with red and fuchsia as well as tweed ballerina shoes.