The final stretch of Paris Fashion Week has arrived and, in traditional style, Chanel has been saved to send off the last of a ten-day extravaganza. And when it comes to the fabled house, founded by the legendary couturière Coco Chanel in 1910, a new meaning is brought to go big or go home. The late, great, Karl Lagerfeld set the modern precedent for what a Chanel show really is. Wild sets, unlimited budgets, and the true definition of building new worlds. Season after season he completely transformed the Grand Palais into anything from a fully-stocked supermarket and to a rocket launch site.
After his death in February 2019, Lagerfeld’s 36-year reign came to an end, and Virginie Viard was chosen to lead the house into the future. Now over fourteen solo collections in, and having overseen hundreds since she joined the house as an intern 1987, Viard is finding her own style. While her sets, which are created by Stefan Lubrina, are scaled back when put up against her predecessor’s, that quintessential, aspirational, otherworldliness that really defines Chanel is never far away.
These are the pair’s best runways settings:
Ready-To-Wear, Spring/Summer 2022
For her most recent collection, Viard threw it back to the golden years when runway shows thrived off the energy of photographers bustling up to elbow-height catwalks. Gilded gold Chanel lettering made a glitzy backdrop to the sexy swimwear and butterfly prints that fluttered down.
Couture, Spring/Summer 2021
Rose petals covered the floors as Viard’s models swanned under hedgerow floral garlands and out from a tent strung with little lights. The fairytale-esque set piece ended with a bride atop a long-maned white horse. I do.
Ready-To-Wear, Spring/Summer 2020
Perhaps a show better remembered for the altercation Gigi Hadid had with the YouTuber who broke onto the catwalk, nevertheless, the Parisian rooftop view that took over the Grand Palais was one of Viard’s most exciting Chanel sets to date.
Ready-To-Wear, Autumn/Winter 2019
For the last collection that Lagerfeld designed, shown after his death, the audience went up high into the alpines to say final farewells. The runway was covered in snow, and amongst frosted lampposts and snowflake-laden trees, Cara Delevingne led out the group of emotional, tweed-clad models.
What to do for a Cruise collection? Just build one. And if you’re Lagerfeld, make that a 148-metre-long vessel that took a hefty month construct. Named ‘La Pausa’, after Chanel’s villa in the Cote d’Azur, it provided the perfect backdrop to the sailor stripes that came out.
Ready-To-Wear, Autumn/Winter 2017
Smoke pumped out of engines as the Chanel-style rocket ship threatened to actually take off. In one of Lagerfeld’s most iconic show moments, models came out in a re-vitalised Space Age looks, all-metallic silver and moon prints.
Couture, Autumn/Winter 2015
On the runway, Kristen Stewart and Julianne Moore were just some of the Chanel girls who played roulette centre stage as this show unfolded. All around them, walls were lined by fruit machines and audience members.
Ready-To-Wear, Autumn/Winter 2014
Ah yes, the notorious show that left editors red-faced as security pulled out the Chanel branded foodstuffs from their bags, which had lined the supermarket aisles which models sauntered through moments before. Every detail, from smoked salmons, to pear juice and Chanel branded metal shopping baskets made this the ultimate grocery trip.
Couture, Spring/Summer 2012
The crowd snuggled down into aeroplane seats as this couture collection stormed down the aisle. There were certainly airhostess edges to this myriad shade of blue show, but hair was more gravity defying than neat EasyJet up-do.
Scroll the gallery above for more of the best Chanel sets of all time.