There is a popular quote by TS Eliot on how it is the journey, not the arrival, that matters. But in the case of Chanel’s Spring/Summer 2022 haute couture show, held on Jan 25 in Paris, the spectacular entrance, made by a black tweed and sequinned Chanel jacket-wearing Charlotte Casiraghi on horseback, ensured this particular beginning was the true moment of consequence.
Casiraghi kick-started what was, even by the industry’s exacting standards, an epic show, conceptualised by Chanel’s creative director Virginie Viard, together with artist Xavier Veilhan, who conceived the setting’s graphic décor, and au- thor-composer Sebastien Tellier the music.
“The idea for the show’s décor came from a long-standing desire to work with Xavier Veilhan,” says Viard. “His references to constructivism remind me of those of Karl Lagerfeld. I like this similarity of spirit between us, now and across time. In addition to creating the décor, with its references to the avant-gardes of the 1920s and 1930s, Xavier wanted to work with Charlotte Casiraghi. His artistic universe is full of horses and Charlotte is a skilled rider.”
For those unfamiliar with the equestrienne’s name, Casiraghi is the second child and only daughter of Princess Caroline of Monaco and the late Italian industrialist, Stefano Casiraghi. Her maternal grandparents are HSH Prince Rainier of Monaco and American actress and Hollywood legend Grace Kelly, making her 11th in line to the Monegasque throne. A celebrated beauty on the European social circuit, the 35-year-old model and film producer juxtaposed her other roles — accomplished horsewoman and Chanel brand ambassador — to open the highly anticipated show in unforgettable style by jauntily trotting down the runway of the Grand Palais Éphémère before breaking into a full canter on her beautiful Spanish bay horse. The audience’s re-action? Sheer delight.
“One effect that we and Virginie Viard were intent on getting into the show was Charlotte’s entrance on horseback, opening the way for the models and the clothes, which would contrast with the beauty of the rider and the horse,” Veilhan explains. “The concept that I suggested to Virginie is a sort of garden, an open structure, something to do with both a mini-golf course and a showjumping course for horses. It was also a way of aligning the very strong aesthetics of the horse with those of haute couture and seeing how refinement and animality can combine.”
Casiraghi weighs in saying, “I immediately think of the story of Chanel and Gabrielle Chanel. Horses and riding were extremely important, if not instrumental, in her vision of fashion. You can feel that Virginie Viard [also] has an attraction to and affection for horses. Her eyes light up when she sees a horse. I rode a lot at one time, but in the past three or four years, very little. So I was a bit scared of not being able to do what Xavier wanted.”
“With Charlotte and the horse at the opening, we were not sure what might happen, but the risk is always exciting,” adds Tellier. “And a fashion show must create excitement!”
Although Tellier uses the noun “excitement” when describing the show’s desired result, the adjective “ethereal” somehow seems more fitting, dreamily echoing the diaphanous fluidity of Viard’s creations. Soft- ness, lightness and femininity were woven throughout each of the designs, from a soft, round-collared four-pocket coat dress in white and ivory to a jacket paired with flared trousers in lapis blue tweed woven with sequins and ribbons. The classic Chanel suit was also reinvented, this time boasting a round-neck hourglass jacket trimmed with contrasting crystal braids and worn with matching wide trousers in a fusion of structure and drape.
To accompany the models, Tellier performed a series of new tracks, especially composed for the occasion, live on oversized instruments as well as the Cristal Baschet, a rare crystal organ from the Studio Venezia of the French Pavilion at the 57th Venice Biennale in 2017.
“I think that my music for this show can highlight details and reflections. Virginie listens to music with her heart. She listens to the feelings music arouses in her. Which is crucial. So I knew that for the music to match her creations, I would have to explore something touching, with emotion. [But] the star of the show isn’t the music. The stars are the clothes.”
Fans of popular culture might by now, find it tempting to compare Casiraghi’s grand entrance to that of another monumental equestrian moment when fashion icon Bianca Jagger famously entered storied New York hot spot Studio 54 on a white horse for her 32nd birthday party. Comparison, as we all know, is a waste of time. One thing we can agree upon unanimously, however, is that a beautiful new verse in the annals of Paris’ legendary couture shows has just been written.
Top travel spots for those who like to gallop and gallivant
FOR THE TYCOON WANTING TO GET AWAY FROM IT ALL:
If you have explored Bali and Lombok more instances than you can remember, perhaps it is now time to push Sumba to the top of your Indonesian travel list. The most luxurious place to stay on this wild, rugged island would, of course, be Nihi Sumba. And it is on Nihiwatu’s golden stretch of beach that 17 gorgeous horses gallop freely among the waves daily — a sight to behold. If you wish to deepen your equine experience further, know that the award-winning resort is also home to Sandalwood Stables, a world-class equestrian facility, and offers horse whispering, swimming with the horses and horse surfing programmes. (nihi.com)
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FOR THE LOVER OF HISTORY AND LUXURY:
Chateau De Chantilly
Horses have always been part of the narrative in Chantilly, France. Its surrounding forests were once the favoured hunting grounds for the French nobility, but it is the splendid chateau and independent stables that make the elegant town a magnet for horse and history
enthusiasts. Built in the 18th century, the Great Stables of the Chateau de Chantilly were conceived for Louis-Henri de Bourbon, Prince of Condé, by architect Jean Aubert. An architectural masterpiece, the Stables also house the Museum of the Horse. (chateaudechantilly.fr)
FOR THE INTREPID EXPLORER:
Offering some of the most arresting desert scenery in the world, Jordan’s Wadi Rum can be explored on the back of
a camel but those who want to channel their inner Indiana Jones might be better off booking a horse-riding holiday here. There are several operators offering four to six-day rides that take you around the mountainous areas surrounding Petra as well as the rock formations for which Wadi Rum is especially famous. Find one that strikes your fancy as well as budget. (horseridingtoursjordan.com)