It’s difficult to turn heads on the fashion front row, but Chanel did exactly that in Paris. The Grand Palais has been converted into some of the most extravagant and outrageous settings for Chanel’s fashion shows throughout the years, but marking their first IRL in two years, the French fashion house made history yesterday by sending a royal riding a horse down its runway.
Charlotte Casiraghi, Princess Caroline of Monaco’s eldest daughter and granddaughter of the late Grace Kelly, was seen cantering down the runway on a magnificent bay steed. As a Chanel ambassador (and a showjumper), it seemed rather appropriate that Casiraghi opened the Haute Couture show atop a horse, setting the tone for an onslaught of impossibly cool Couture designs to follow in their foot (and hoof) steps. Coco Chanel was a keen rider herself, with two of her lovers being polo players, so we can see where the inspiration came from. However, arrival by pony certainly hasn’t been this chic since Bianca Jagger famously galloped into Studio 54 on a white horse in 1977. Forget about the strut – we’re sure everyone will be attempting the trot next season.
Casiraghi appeared nonchalant as she rode past an audience that might best be described as gobsmacked. We are surprised they hadn’t worked it out, as the Grand Palais had been transformed by artist Xavier Veilhan into what looked like a showjumping course for the occasion.
‘His references to constructivism remind me of Karl Lagerfeld,’ remarked Chanel’s creative director Virginie Viard, referring to the brand’s previous director, who passed in February 2019. However, the abstract set design was a far cry from Lagerfeld’s lifesize rockets, complete supermarkets, and ski resorts. ‘Xavier wanted to work with Charlotte Casiraghi. His artistic universe is full of horses, and Charlotte is a skilled rider,’ Viard continued.
The collection itself was inevitably less dramatic. Casiraghi herself sported a black tweed and sequinned Chanel riding jacket. The LBJ (little black jacket for those who aren’t aware) has been as significant to Chanel’s success as the LBD, which Coco Chanel first advocated to her rich clientele in the 1920s. Prior to this, black had been reserved for mourning and maids.
After the dramatic show opening, an entourage of superbly tailored twin sets slowly descended the runway. The muted palette of blacks, blues, and whites allowed the line’s inherently charming Chanel accents to stand out before extravagant variations on the conventional suit, such as tapered wide legs and full crystal fringe trousers, began to emerge, leading to the line’s exquisite dresses. These came in the form of drop waist sheer stomach panels connected to carefully layered ruffles and a host of spaghetti-strapped silk dresses with simple yet elaborate beading.
Viard’s lesson for us all appears to be one we’ve heard many times before: less is more, even in Couture.
Fear not though, 1980s extravagance addicts: there’s still room for you, as the collection was kept together by the universally-loved Chanel classics. We are talking metallic tweeds, two-tone heels, and a candy-coloured confection of tasteful designs.
The show then came to an end in typical Chanel style, with a bride holding a bouquet of black flowers in memory of French actor Gaspard Ulliel, who passed away aged 37 on January 18 following a skiing accident.