Cathy Horyn Couture Fashion Week in Review: Chanel
(Left to right: Ronald van der Kemp, Chanel, Iris van Herpen.)
Photo: by the cut; Photos: Courtesy of Ronald van der Kemp, Chanel, Iris van Herpen
As a rule, Chanel doesn’t show haute couture bags or jewelry, and it tries to keep logos to a bare minimum, although one appeared in Virginie Viard’s fall collection on Tuesday – woven interlocking Cs. in a black and white tweed. golden beige coat. But you hardly noticed it. Even Karl Lagerfeld managed to hold back, which must have been difficult. He usually confined his stupidity to ready-to-wear.
Nonetheless, the lack of logos and accessories (aside from a few diamond pieces) is keenly felt this time around, perhaps because it brings out the simplicity of Viard’s clothing. Some might say the collection was boring; in March, at the fall ready-to-wear shows, I found her women’s suits of unfathomable, bourgeois elegance—the very opposite of the renegade spirit of Coco Chanel. But there is a huge difference between a ready-made jacket and one made by hand in an exceptional fabric. It adapts slightly to the body. There is a roundness, a natural ease. And in the large, airy space of Chanel’s place – a merry-go-round in the Bois de Boulogne – that’s what seduced me about Viard’s couture, its very sobriety.
Photo: Courtesy of Chanel
It probably helped a lot of her models to wear their hair loose (unlike the Brunhilde braids from last July) and wear black western-style boots or T-strap heels. They looked polished but comfortable, like s ‘they were going to leave the arena and keep walking. And while there was embroidery in the collection, it seemed more subdued, or at least harder to grasp, even up close. For example, there was a stunning black tweed coat, and what you can’t tell from the pictures is that it has deep slits in the back, with delicate ostrich feathers blowing from the lining . In pictures, it looks like a regular black coat. Other embroideries and details, like the edgy line of the evening gowns, seemed to reference 1930s glamor and Art Deco.
Photo: Courtesy of Chanel
But Viard’s tastes are a little opaque and perhaps, ultimately, independent. Where Lagerfeld takes a broad look at history and culture, Viard’s choices seem more personal and somehow less narrow-minded. She had recently worked with Xavier Veilhan to create labyrinthine decors with playful accents and with the composer and musician Sébastien Tellier. Lagerfeld tended to be decidedly fashionable, making short skirts when the time was right. Viand follows its own rhythm. This time, she showed off plenty of straight, mid-calf skirts, like Maria Grazia Chiuri at Dior, including a cute wheat tweed suit with a pale pink lace shell, and she even threw on a pair of gaucho pants. Chiuri and Viard have something else in common this season. Their collections exude a sense of harmony, not only in the individual styles they showed, but also in the tranquil ambiance they project. Nowhere was this clearer than in Viard’s evening wear: A-line dresses in flowing layers of white tulle, a classic suit embroidered entirely with silver paddles, an ultra-simple pale pink camisole with a full skirt in black silk-faille. These styles are very young, but she is not looking for them.
Other couturiers confront reality (and the past) in a different way. In the garden of an elegant building on the Left Bank, Dutch designer Ronald van der Kemp showed off 27 utterly unique looks assembled from new materials, discarded exotic skins, recycled lace and bric-a-brac from previous collections. This collection, which featured a beautifully shredded and pleated dress in tulle, in colors that suggested a melted roll of fruity Lifesavers, wasn’t as vibrant as last season’s. There were too many fashion gestures – big sleeves, twisted scarves, chopped or cat-claw denim – and not enough design substance. Still, Van der Kemp’s cast, once assembled on the steps, surpassed the Tenenbaums for weirdness.
Ronald van der Kemp.
Photo: Courtesy of Ronald van der Kemp
Iris Van Herpen’s Ovid-inspired dresses were enchanting. His idea was to provide audiences with helmets that would tie them into his other theme, the Metaverse. But due to a Covid related issue this did not happen. Van Herpen, who is also Dutch, has worked between realities for a long time, and her tailoring is unlike anyone else. This season, her clothes were once again sculptural and intricately crafted, in materials like recycled Mylar, raw silk, organza and a type of banana leaf that made them look as dazzling as antique stained glass.
Photo: Courtesy of Iris van Herpen
A number of houses hold high jewelry presentations, separate from the shows, which are now part of Couture Fashion Week. Chanel and Hermès are worth mentioning, partly because they put so much effort into designing their presentations, not to mention the jewelry itself, and partly because both plan to bring their collections to United States this fall (Hermès in New York, Chanel in LA). Chanel takes over a vast temporary exhibition space, darkens the interiors and places its jewels in a circular, illuminated showcase at eye level. The inspiration for the celestial designs—stars and comets and the like, set mostly with diamonds, but also pearls, blue opals, and a gumball-sized sapphire—was Chanel’s 1932 collection.
Hermès sparked something rare even in fashion – a sense of wonder. First there was a performance, created by Lina Lapelyte, who in 2019 received the Golden Lion at the Venice Biennale for her collaborative work Sun and Sea. For Hermès, she has a group of performers (dressed in black) sing in low voices and then gradually increases the tempo by also increasing their movements on a small stage. At the same time, the shadows of the performers appear against a curtain, a prelude to Pierre Hardy’s “Ombre et Lumière” jewelry collection.
Photo: Elizaveta Porodina / Courtesy of Hermès
But the jewels are remarkable in themselves: a necklace with a large square pendant lined with mother-of-pearl and set with colored stones; rings with microscopic pavé of diamonds or, say, sapphires and set with single, oblong stones, as if a tiny meteor had landed, and rings whose mechanical parts and stones evoked a lunar eclipse. Yes.
As traditional as Hermès is, its creative minds are in the present, and it makes sense that its jewelry is not just special but progressive.