30th January 2023

Chanel Haute Couture SS23 Show

Jodi Bhachu-Smith discover the animal side of Chanel's creative director

The Chanel Haute Couture SS23 collection saw the Maison’s director, Virginie Viard, and French artist Xavier Veilhan come together in collaboration for the third time.  The show was presented, as per tradition, under the roof of the Grand Palais Éphémère.  Central to the themes and inspirations were locations pivotal to the house’s history like 31 rue Cambon, the iconic residence of Gabrielle Chanel herself.

After their first rendezvous under Coco’s roof, Viard simply requested that Veilhan “reinterpret the apartment’s bestiary and incorporate his own”.  The resulting stage on which this drama took place was a jocose take on the founder’s fascination with all things animal.  Large abstract sculptures constructed from wood, paper and cardboard guided the way into the theatrical world the duo were inviting you to explore.

Throughout the collection, Viard incorporated Chanel’s classic visual codes of does and stags, camellia, tweed, and cream with a touch of her own hand.  Through her embroidery she revealed new, more youthful motifs of kittens, corgis, rabbits and swallows.  “More youthful” would certainly be an apt description of Viard’s interpretation during her time at Chanel, and this season was no exception.

The circus-esque flourishes of top hats and bow ties were running highlights that complemented the creative mood.  The style of the quintessential suit took its cues from Chanel’s always poetic interpretation of female parade uniforms.  In fact, thoughts of majorettes played a vital part in Viard’s own inspiration throughout the looks.  Laced white or gold booties with Chanel’s classic black-tip toe finished outfits from glittery gowns and tweed two-pieces, to floral frocks.

The new collection was unquestionably fresh and light, particularly for couture.  Yet it still retained that knowable refinement and class Chanel followers love with the use of fabrics like Chantilly lace and silk tulle.  Then, at last, emerging from Veilhan’s elephant, a bride adorned in an embroidered white dress with matching bowtie and veil to close the show, just like the fairy tale.  Enchanting, and in resonance with the rest of Viard’s work, youthful.


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