The opening of Chanel’s Haute Couture Fall/Winter 2023 show immediately clues us in on what Virginie Viard is putting across with her latest collection. Who better to exemplify the intrinsic je ne sais quoi of Parisian life than the woman who literally wrote the book on it?
Caroline de Maigret, the author of How to be Parisian Wherever You Are, initiated the runway in a floor-length, double-breasted navy tweed coat with contrasting buttons—not just any coat, the perfect coat. With hands trust in her pockets and undone hair left loose in the wind, the French muse sauntered along the Seine with an easy elegance that faithfully carried through the collection. As the rest of the models appeared in droves, they painted a vibrant picture of the charm in everyday Parisienne life. Strolling quayside nonchalantly with baskets of flowers in their block Mary-Jane heels, as if running errands or walking the dog, it was easy to get carried away with the captivating simplicity of French style that has long held our interest.
But of course, this is still couture, and though Viard is a master in veiling the supreme craftsmanship of Chanel’s ateliers in impossibly cool, lifestyle-driven designs, the quality is clear. Where most designers would not pour the effort and resources of couture into daywear, Viard seemingly takes joy in playing around with unexpected contrasts, further drilling down on the oxymoron of ‘effortless elegance’ that the house has been built on for over a century.
A pillar of the house’s codes is the interplay of the masculine and feminine, which we see in the juxtaposition of masculine-inspired overcoats assembled in signature feminine tweeds, diaphanous blouses belted over thick, flat-pleated skirts, silk chiffon and organza with by pin-striped trousers, graphic motifs and men’s waistcoats. Discreet colours and vibrant shades sit together in equilibrium, as do delicate florals and hardware. Even a long black chiffon gown of infinite lightness is anchored by a wide gold chain belt.
This year, the Chanel bride embodies this parity, wearing a tea-length drop-waist dress that featured a sheer overlay and a youthful ruffled neckline sitting above a refined square neckline and pearl detailing.
Viard has always been able to capture the idealised Paris in a way that is faithful to the house’s codes and grounded in a modern sensibility. With Chanel Haute Couture Fall/Winter 2023/24, the creative director illuminates the other side, joining the dots to offer us a whole portrait. By balancing these opposites, we are shown the strength in delicacy, ease in sophistication and beauty in the everyday. Rules are rewritten, and the impenetrable savoir-faire of Parisienne life is laid out for the world.
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This story first appeared on GRAZIA International.