Silhouettes were simple: slouchy cardigans, skirts that tuliped at the waist to move with unimpeded freedom, and pants that ranged from pleat-waist jeans to relaxed capri cuts and breezy palazzo styles. Notably, an abundance of shorts filtered through the collection, some so brief they could be labelled hotpants, but Viard layered those over black opaque stockings or under extra-long outerwear for a clever equalising effect. A longer tailored pair cut from Chanel’s signature tweed and styled with a matching jacket delivered a more wearable riff on the trend, and was quickly earmarked a fashion-editor favourite.
On the equally understated yet effective set she erected within the historic Grand Palais, Viard revealed, “The roofs of Paris reminded me of the atmosphere of the Nouvelle Vague. I thought about Kristen Stewart playing [actor] Jean Seberg [in the film Seberg], and all the [actors] Gabrielle Chanel dressed at that time.” And though the ’50s New Wave period of cinema she’s referring to rejected traditional filmmaking conventions in favour of documentary-style realism, Viard’s clothes were hardly workaday basics.
Those techniques were varied and abounding, too. Delicate rows of ruffles were stitched into a denim jacket, elevating the workhorse fabrication into a haute work of art. Metallic braided rope and candy-striped silk trimmed cuffs, collars and hemlines, while thinly sliced leather was played against fine feathers across an elegant monochrome skirt-and-sweater ensemble. Even certain iterations of the old-school tweed texture (as well as a standout graphic print cast in blue and pink tonalities) revealed the letters C-H-A-N-E-L in the most sophisticated spin on logo mania you’re ever likely to find.
As the line-up moved towards eveningwear, from what at first glance appeared to be a selection of simple black dresses, emerged fluttery organza petals to balloon sleeves embellished with little bows—every overblown proportion perfectly balanced by another or offset by sheer taffeta that traded overt sexiness for chic sensuality.
Adding to the overall air of nonchalance, footwear wasn’t elevated beyond a mini heel, and many of the models walked in two-tone ankle-strap flats, carrying timeless top-handle bags and adorned in layers of pearls or chunky gold chains. Short-brimmed hats topped off a helping of the looks, though the accumulation of accessories never felt overwrought, not least because of the thoughtful way in which they were met by a quintessentially French beauty look: undone hair and barely there make-up.
Altogether it was the kind of range that successfully defers fashion’s eternal quest for newness, because when the calibre of your clothes is so grand, so timeless and so wearable, what more could a woman’s wardrobe possibly hope for?
That’s not to say Viard didn’t deliver an evolution of Chanel’s ready-to-wear vision. The show’s opening look was a youthful playsuit version of the label’s original tweed jacket—a first for the brand and one that revealed the designer’s sensitivity to women of all ages, and hinted at her higher ambitions for the label. Continuing in this vein, with small tweaks applied to Chanel’s long-established party line, it was a breath of fresh air centred on the house history we already know and love. Because, as any bona fide style-setter will tell you, what lies at the core of cool isn’t passing trends, it’s simply staying true to yourself.
This article originally appeared in the March 2020 issue of InStyle.