Chanel A/W 2020 Haute Couture
Karl Lagerfeld as seen through the eyes of Virginie Viard for the new Chanel haute couture collection. All images and video by Mikael Jansson
For the Chanel A/W 2020 Haute Couture collection, creative director Virginie Viard became the vessel for Karl Lagerfeld’s legendary spirit. Much like Sarah Burton at Alexander McQueen, Viard has managed to retain the presence of the man who made the Chanel name what it is today, while interpreting his design IQ with her own creative vision to produce a collection that at once feels familiar yet not old; reassuring yet exciting; Karl and yet Virginie. This summer’s haute couture collection channeled Coco Chanel from her formative, childhood years learning dressmaking at the Aubazine Covent in France. The winter collection swings the pendulum back the other way to leave much more of Lagerfeld’s imprint on it.
I was thinking about a punk princess coming out of ‘Le Palace’ at dawn, with a taffeta dress, big hair, feathers and lots of jewellery. This collection is more inspired by Karl Lagerfeld than Gabrielle Chanel. Karl would go to ‘Le Palace’, he would accompany these very sophisticated and very dressed up women, who were very eccentric too. – Virginie Viard, creative director, Chanel.
The ‘punk princess’ is the unseen star of the collection. Even if she doesn’t actually exist, we should all be thankful this collection was designed with her specifically in mind. The amazing modern opulence combined with that very same sharp ‘punk’ edge is a rare sight to behold. A stunning anthracite, full-length velvet gown is enhanced with a one-two combination of a spectacular full empire line and beautiful flower embroidery at the waist and the sleeve cuffs for some wonderfully contrasting bright colours.
Of course, it wouldn’t be Chanel without the signature tweed ensembles and it’s here where Viard plays with our notions of the familiar somehow not feeling old. Who couldn’t love the tweed dress with the puffed layered skirt and the playful multicoloured fringe at the hem? Perhaps it’s a tailored tweed coat or the purple tweed skirt suit that will make you feel like Wonder Woman this winter? Add a couple of pieces from the Chanel high-jewellery range to the outfit and it’s a definite guarantee. The silhouette of the round-necked beaded jacket – slim through the body, flared at the waist to the hem – is hard to tear your eyes away from.
And then there are the gowns. This is where we really see the punk and princess dichotomy of Viard’s underlying narrative vision. The non-conformity of the stark, chiselled round neck and the amazing two-tone, blue/green shimmer in one particular gown is contrasted by its old romance of billowing sleeves, jewelled buttons and long, long lines. Elsewhere, the shimmer on the spectacular, silver one-shoulder gown could probably register on the Richter scale all by itself. If a look fit for vintage French royal courts is top of your mind, however, then the royal blue buttoned gown with the chiffon cape is all you’ll need to live your own fairytale. As Viard herself puts it:
For me, Haute Couture is romantic by its very essence. There is so much love in each one of these silhouettes.
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