Monumental light-bulb encrusted letters spelling CHANEL sparkled over the runway at the Grand Palais on the last day of Paris Fashion Week prefacing a collection celebrating the cinema industry. Like Milan before it, Paris has undertaken an unusual fashion season for Spring-Summer 2021 because of the coronavirus pandemic. The nine-day calendar was a mix of ready-to-wear runway collections with masked guests in seated rows, in-person presentations and completely digital shows streamed online with promotional videos.
The American actors who usually attend Chanel, the highlight of Paris Fashion Week, stayed away. But designer Virginie Viard dreamed of more glamorous times. She produced an optimistic collection channeling the Hollywood or Cannes movie star machine and its media circus, appropriately placing French Oscar-winning actress Marion Cotillard on the front row.
I was thinking about actresses at the photocall, coming off the red carpet: their faces a little distracted, their attitude a little out of sync with the outfits they’re wearing. This very lively side to cinema that happens beyond cinema, Viard said.
For the high-class, there were ecru and black tweed skirt suits — the house signature. The best was a stiff knit black number with giant round shoulders, uber-cinched waist, giant tubular arms, and large white visible shirt cuffs and collar. It cut a beautiful silhouette against the pure-white illuminated runway.
It produced a diverse display of high-class glamour that mingled with the casual — in a collection notable for its shoulder shapes that were exaggeratedly round and wide, or diagonal and flat.
That said, there were plenty of stand-out moments. A shoulderless black mini dress was the definition of chic, with a sheer silk black overskirt that fluttered gently to the ankles to sensually reveal the legs. A loose black silk top had dramatic swooshes of white feathers across it like a sash.
Some of the casual looks, however, let the collection down. Large prints in vibrant color, such as a turtle-neck and cross-over dress, featured blown-up letters spelling the house name to evoke neon lights. But the colors clashed and it sometimes seemed as if the designer was trying too hard to be hip.