For Chanel, it appears that the future has arrived: On Thursday, for the brand’s Métiers d’Art show, Virginie Viard reimagined Coco Chanel’s iconic apartment in Paris’ Grand Palais and gave it a very Millennial spin. Titled “Paris-31 rue Cambon” for the street where Chanel set up shop in 1910, Viard described her first Métiers d’Art show as “the things we like, a mix of Karl and Chanel—the codes.” But it was so much more than that.
Models wore Coco’s heart on their sleeves. In tribute to the designer's former apartment, there were ears of wheat from the gilded sheaves that Chanel kept for good luck; embroidery on cardigans worn with sleek jogging pants; Chinese lacquered Coromandel screens that appeared as pocket flaps; and strands of her infamous pearls that covered little black dresses — definitely Coco’s codes, and a bit of Karl’s, too.
Despite the nods to Chanel’s heritage, this was definitely Viard’s show. While Lagerfeld often wore black suits, high collars, fingerless gloves, and dark glasses — a theatrical approach to dressing that often showed up on the runway —Viard's personal style lends itself to a more subdued elegance. Perhaps that’s why collection took on a very 1990s feel with its wide belts worn high on the waist, low-rise pants, crop tops, and tiny bags the size of an old-school flip phone.
“These codes are strong, but they’re not static. Virginie is updating them, little by little, with her vision of the brand and her personal touch,” Bruno Pavlovsky, president of Chanel fashion activities and president of Chanel SAS, told WWD.
Like we saw for Viard’s fall 2019 debut, she knows the key to building brand loyalty with younger shoppers is to make couture less stuffy. Think: less stiff cocktail gowns, more cashmere sweatpants worn under a slip dress. 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 (which is, perhaps, obvious). 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 wearable 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 has made a home for us in her Coco Chanel-fueled dream.