Chanel’s Spring-Summer 2021 Ready-to-Wear show takes its cue from the splendour of Hollywood and cinema

As luxury fashion brands deliberated over whether to present their collections at the Paris Fashion Week in a physical show or virtually, the bigwigs at the House of Chanel had had their minds firmly made up very early on.

They would go ahead to showcase artistic director Virginie Viard’s Spring-Summer 2021 Ready-to-Wear collection in person, on the catwalk, and once again, the Grand Palais would be transformed into a magical expanse.

On the last day of Paris Fashion Week, an exclusive crowd comprising 500 mask-wearing, socially distanced guests were transported to Tinseltown.

Taking inspiration from the iconic structure standing proud on the mountains of Santa Monica, California, the fashion house erected its very own version of the famous sign — CHANEL spelled out in 12m-high white capital letters illuminated with light bulbs — to form the backdrop for the show.

RTW collection - THE EDGE SINGAPORE

Cinema and Chanel

One might wonder: Why Hollywood? “The world of Chanel evokes so many images, a whole unconscious that’s linked to cinema,” answers the style maven.

The House of Chanel has always wielded influence on the signature looks that come out of Hollywood. In 1931, at the invitation of Samuel Goldwyn of United Artists, Mademoiselle Coco Chanel travelled to Los Angeles, the home of American cinema, to design costumes.

Goldwyn’s desire was for Hollywood to capture the glamour of French couture and, more specifically, Chanel’s romantic appeal. The house designed costumes for three Hollywood pictures — Palmy Days (1931), Tonight or Never (1931) and The Greeks Had a Word for Them (1932). For the press kit of the Chanel Spring-Summer 2021 Ready-to-Wear collection envisioned by Viard, acclaimed Dutch photographers Inez van Lamsweerde and Vinoodh Matadin shot a series of photographs and videos featuring models Rianne Van Rompaey, Mica Argañaraz and Louise de Chevigny.

Cinema and Chanel - THE EDGE SINGAPORE

The central theme for the press kit is set in different decors with the three models playing four recurring cinematic acts: On the telephone, gazing out of the window, sitting on a bed and walking through the heart of Paris.

“Playing on the idea of repetition, the women all enact the same gestures,” opine Inez and Vinoodh. “They are each clearly in their own world but together represent what we feel is Chanel’s way of fitting into the lives of every woman with a cool and easy allure.”

The teaser for the spring-summer collection, also shot by Inez and Vinoodh, included extracts from the French classics La Piscine (The Swimming Pool) (1969) by Jacques Deray, Breathless (1960), A Woman Is a Woman (1961), Contempt (1963), Pierrot Le Fou (1965) by Jean-Luc Godard, and Elevator to the Gallows (1958) by Louis Malle.

The one-minute, 46-second film brought together French cinema’s legendary actresses, Romy Schneider, Anna Karina and Jeanne Moreau.

Employing strategic artistic execution, Inez and Vinoodh successfully brought Paris to the mountains of Santa Monica and the Sacré Coeur Basilica was juxtaposed with the hills, thus creating a symbolic link between laid-back Los Angeles and easy Parisian elegance.

Paying homage to Gabrielle Chanel’s work with French Nouvelle Vague directors, Italian cinema and Hollywood, Viard made Schneider her point of reference, along with Karina and Moreau, for her Spring-Summer 2021 Ready-to-Wear collection.

“I was thinking about actresses at the photo call, on the red carpet, that moment when they’re being called by the photographers: Their faces a little distracted, their attitude a little out of sync with the outfits they’re wearing. And then there are the fans waiting for them behind the barriers, this very lively side of the cinema that happens beyond the cinema, that’s what I like,” expresses Viard in her collection notes.

“This collection is a tribute to the muses of the House. Some of them are far away, it’s been a long time since we saw them,” she continues. “Gabrielle Chanel and Karl Lagerfeld dressed so many actresses in films and in real life. I was thinking about them who made us dream so much. But without wanting to replicate. Without falling into a vintage citation. I wanted it to be very joyful, colourful, and very vibrant too.”

A collection for all kinds of women

It was immediately clear from the start of the show that Virginie Viard had set her heart on creating a spring-summer collection that is more inclusive; one that dresses the real woman of today, who comes in all shapes and sizes. We see very contemporary designs tailored to fit a diverse-looking line-up of 70 models, including the voluptuous Size-40 Dutch model Jill Kortleve.

Big names such as Louise de Chevigny, Mica Argañaraz and Vittoria Ceretti as well as in-house models Amanda Sanchez and Cris Herrmann strutted down the catwalk, exuding an air of youthfulness, lightness and casual elegance.

A collection for all kinds of women - THE EDGE SINGAPORE

Some of the key looks to have come out of Chanel’s Spring-Summer 2021 Ready-to-Wear collection were refreshingly simple and chic.

Short skirts that ended just above the knee, high-waisted Bermuda shorts, sweet pink Capri pants, pleated denims in fluorescent pink and bright turquoise — all drew enthusiastic nods from fashionistas the world over, judging from feedback after the show.

It is exciting to see Viard have fun expressing her street savvy with bold, neon graphic motifs on T-shirts, the film countdown timer that stopped perpetually at five seconds (a reference to Chanel No. 5), and lots of logo play.

The double-C emblem featured heavily on gold necklaces, tiaras and pendants on handbags. Femininity and fluidity reigned free with long print dresses bearing small flowers, sweeping flouncy chiffon numbers, asymmetric cuts and fine accoutrements of lace and ruffle.

See: Ties that bind

The classic Chanel tweed jacket is revisited and this time we see exaggerated puffy shoulders. A longish jacket was transformed into a robe-style tweed dress, and tweed suits found new iterations in the form of vests and toga tops.

Once again, the artistic director demonstrated her creativity in reimagining the tweed, proving that Gabrielle’s legendary creation is at once enduringly classic and elegant, yet timeless, contemporary and ever so versatile.

One of Viard’s strengths is her talent for accessories design. One will quickly realise it is the place where she goes all out to expend her creative energy.

This collection’s scene-stealing piece has to be the emblematic 2.55 quilted chain bag that she had turned into an ubercool chunky gold pendant. Strings of elegant pearls were heavily present on wrists, necks and on handbags, a truly demure sight. Hollywood no longer boasts the lustre of its heyday.

Gone is the oldworld glamour and one can only handle so much of the cheap theatrics and flashes of light that the Tinseltown of current times has become synonymous with.

For a while, the Chanel Spring-Summer 2021 Ready-to-Wear show allowed us to flit back in time and escape to that elegant era of years past. And we are happy to bask in the glory days of film, even if for a fleeting moment.