Karl Lagerfeld was a lot of things, and among them, an avid reader. So in a heartfelt tribute to Chanel's late creative director who died in February at the age of 85, Virginie Viard staged a multi-floor library in the Grand Palais. She first joined Lagerfeld as his intern at Chanel in 1987, and has remained at his side ever since, including his stint at Chloé in 1992 and his return to Chanel in 1997.
For her solo couture debut, she presented an elegant collection perfectly suited for the backdrop. She took her bow from the steps of the library, wearing a black T-shirt and belted printed pants with matching boots, and in that moment, it became evident the new direction of Chanel.
Indeed the creative director's personal style materialized in the collection. Lagerfeld often wore black suits, high collars, fingerless gloves and dark glasses — and that theatrical approach to dressing often showed up on the runway. Viard's personal style lends itself to a more subdued elegance. Perhaps that's why her debut consisted of luxurious basics like roomy tweed coats, breezy wide leg trousers, and dressy flats. Oh, and bows. Lots of bows.
According to WWD, Viard sees the Chanel couture woman as favouring “slippers, loafers or pumps with a bow tie that reinvent the two-tone geometry of the house. Little glasses on chains give her the look of a young woman eager for culture, poetry, novels.” Her bride, the model who typically wears the most glamorous look of the lot, appeared ready for a good night’s sleep in a pink silk robe and PJs.
Is this how we redefine couture? Is this Viard making well-done leisure and everyday clothing the new luxury? Similar to the way Pierpaolo Piccioli is reimagining couture to be more inclusive, it appears that for couture to be a viable business, it needs to evolve with the times. The couture industry limits who can participate, but it is smart for luxury fashion houses to begin to expand beyond that. Forbes is predicting that by 2050, millennials will make up 50% of spending in the personal luxury market. If Chanel wants to continue to be the most desirable brand in the world, Viard's shift to accessible luxury makes sense.
“Being independent is part of our DNA and probably a key condition for our success,” Chanel's global chief financial officer Philippe Blondiaux told Business of Fashion in June. “Unfortunately for many bankers, we will remain a fantasy, but that’s what nice brands are about, creating dreams.”
Luckily, Viard's dream is an accessible one.