It was Coco herself who said that fashion reflects the world we live in. But while most of fashion week echoes the current era of rampant controversy and outrage, at Schiaparelli, the foam lion head worn by Kylie Jenner caused a furor on social media with distraught animal lovers until CEO Peta unexpectedly rushed to the couture industry’s rescue, saying the look “celebrates the beauty of a lion” – Chanel is the silent eye of the storm.
Virginie Viard, who replaced the great showman Karl Lagerfeld at Chanel four years ago, introduced a subtle mood here. The animals from Coco’s elegant Paris apartment – where marble lions stood guard alongside pairs of wood-carved deer, and a lucky golden frog took pride of place on a coffee table – were the subject of her latest haute couture show.
Unlike Schiaparelli’s Instagram, Kardashian bait and fake taxidermy, Chanel’s Trojan camels, deer and birds were abstract plywood sculptures by artist Xavier Veilhan, and the models that emerged wore modest, shiny tweed suits. The drama came with a slight twist, wearing circus master top hats and bow ties worn as chokers.
Nevertheless, Chanel will take the lion’s share of the spotlight this year. A major exhibition at New York’s Metropolitan Museum celebrating Lagerfeld’s four decades at Chanel will be followed by a major retrospective of Coco herself at the V&A in London later this year. Backstage before the show, Chanel fashion president Bruno Pavlovsky said he “saw the layout of the Met exhibition – it’s fantastic. I worked with Karl for many years and he was always talking about the latest Met show. He really loved this museum.”
Pawłowski was also waiting to find out which of Chanel’s red carpet ambassadors would receive Oscar nominations. Last year was a successful awards season for Chanel, who dressed Best Actress nominees Kristen Stewart and Penélope Cruz.
“We have fantastic actors who can help tell the story of our brand, so every moment we can help them is very important to us,” said Pavlovsky. “We’re trying to position ourselves as a supportive partner – it’s a matter of what they want, when they want it.”
Chanel’s relationship with Hollywood began in 1931 when Gabrielle Chanel was invited by movie mogul Sam Goldwyn, who sent a welcome party including Greta Garbo to greet her from the train.
Chanel will hold a major Cruise show in Los Angeles in May, one week after the opening of the Met Gala’s Lagerfeld show. “We’re celebrating Karl’s 40th anniversary in New York – and then we’re heading straight to Los Angeles to show off the new collection and talk about the future. It’s going to be a busy week for everyone, especially for you [the coronation of] Charles III in between. But you can’t be Chanel living in an apartment on the first floor of the 1st arrondissement of Paris.”
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In September, the V&A will showcase “the modern style of an era when designers, including Mademoiselle Chanel, defined contemporary fashion so much,” said Pavlovsky. “For me, there is no contradiction between Chanel’s past and future.”