As far as fashion labels go, Chanel is, stratospherically, the most famous. There are few other houses whereby the fashion-uninterested man-next-door would most likely know that Karl Largerfeld was the designer and that he recently passed away. There are probably no other labels whose founder is the subject of children’s books, intended to inspire new generations of creatives through her unparalleled history.
So, taking the reins of such heritage would not be lost on Virginie Viard. Despite working as Largerfeld’s indispensable studio hand for more than 20 years (both at Chanel and Chloé), becoming the next in line to his sartorial throne can’t be an easy task. Last night, Viard presented her first collection. An impressive Resort show both quantifiably and through her careful design and construction. As the first woman to helm the juggernaut since Coco Chanel herself, Viard is already casting a woman’s-woman spell on the shapes, textures and ambiance of the label.
Held within Paris’ Le Grand Palais (as was often tradition for Largerfeld) Viard mocked a vintage train station as a setting for her transient collection. It was rustic and more understated than a Largerfeld set-masterpiece, but this leaning to subtlety is not unusual for Resort. They are largely in-between-season shows, ones that hoard a range of tangible ready-to-wear.
Viard’s task is to continue the traditions of the house of Chanel, to respect its foundations and to bring her own light to the table. It is not, however, to replicate Largerfeld. His polished, patent shoes were large but she has her own chic pair to stamp her mark with. So rather than wreaking banal havoc with comparison, the more beneficial and constructive move is to remark upon the offerings she is already bringing to the Chanel journey.
Firstly, the collection was large. It was a surge of ideas and inspiration from the 57-year-old French national. Iconography remained steep throughout with pepped classic Chanel tweed jackets and ‘CC’-emblazoned knitwear, but there was a lot more on offer here than just repertoire. It’s clear that Viard’s innate femme touch (as well as her formidable technical prowess) will form the success of her reign. There was a Phoebe Philo scent in the form of relaxed trench-wrap coats, chic-utility trousers and very viable ruffled shirting, but perhaps this was more a link to Coco’s own strong female aesthetic. Then there were risky moves that paid off via garish 80s gelato blouson paired with printed leggings, and prep-school pedal pushers given a very desirable twin-set matching and cinched by a fine chain belt.
There was plenty of haute trend on offer too. Reimagined tweed handkerchief dresses laced with micro belt bags, kitschy oversized-bow bustier tops and roomy western leathers both in bolero jackets and studded trousers will surely give plenty of content-potential to the fashion immediates of the pixel world.
The reaction within the pits of Insta-comments drudgery has, of course, been mixed. Largerfeld’s autumn winter collection is still fresh in production, his summer fashion and eyewear has just hit stores and a lot of people just don’t like change. But Viard is not here to defeat a devilish Daphne du Maurier Rebecca character, she is here to sustain a legacy and further muster the Chanel engine. After all, Largerfeld was Viard’s esteemed colleague, one she immediately paid homage to through dashings of Karl-isms – black and white ensembles and one particularly stiff white collar worn by a model with all-to-reminiscent quaffed white hair.
Her first stop has been one of anticipatory ingenue-whimsy, despite her sumptuous career. The kind that makes you watch a show then feel instantly inspired to revolutionise your own fashion rut. Hopefully, such attention and opinion on her every move (from all facets of real-world and non), will only fuel her fire. And if this is just the beginning of her voyage then we’re indeed lucky that this much-loved and famed label is in the hands of such sensitive, talented savoir faire.
Shop Chanel’s premiere new eyewear collection here now