Paris fashion week finished in dramatic fashion on Tuesday evening. An Extinction Rebellion protester made her way down the Louis Vuitton catwalk with a sign that read “overconsumption = extinction”. She was swiftly bundled off the catwalk by security guards.
The show – and fashion – went on. Dresses with panniers worthy of a Velázquez painting were mixed with New Wave sunglasses and slipdresses. By the end of the show, the audience were only reminded of the interruption by the presence of a security guard as Nicolas Ghesquière, the creative director, took his bow.
There was also a moving tribute to Alber Elbaz – the much-loved designer who died in April this year, with household names such as Ralph Lauren and Giorgio Armani creating designs. Titled Love Brings Love, after Elbaz’s signature phrase, it featured the love hearts, pink and bows found in the designer’s work, as well as various designs with images of the man himself in his bow ties and glasses.
With highlights including Rei Kawakubo’s dress made from Minnie Mouse fabric and Rick Owens’ silk caped gown, the show demonstrated the talents of fashion’s best and brightest.
The Chanel show earlier in the day was an upbeat take on fashion. Catwalk models aren’t known for their friendliness. But at Chanel’s spring/summer 2022 show in Paris – the first ready-to-wear outing with an audience since the pandemic – it was smiles all round.
Models on a raised platform practically skipped down the runway, with one even blowing a kiss to the photographers at their feet. This was an upbeat show with personality – and sexy, fun clothes – at the heart of it.
Bikinis started the show. This “Chanel goes on a yacht” section was followed by equally cheerful, fashion-forward daywear for the super-rich: sequined short dresses, knitted co-ords in sugar pink, patent leather dresses, cycling shorts, shredded denim and lots of cropped designs with midriff in full effect.
While the glittery tweed was present and correct on skirts and dresses, the best pieces played with the house’s heritage – a fun print with Chanel double Cs, a Breton top with beaded sleeves, and a pair of leather dungarees with the quilting found on the classic Chanel 2.55 bag.
The show recalled those by Karl Lagerfeld for Chanel in the late 80s and early 90s – when models like Claudia Schiffer, Naomi Campbell and Helena Christensen smiled as they walked down the catwalk.
In the show notes, Virginie Viard – who took over as creative director from Lagerfeld, her longtime boss, in 2019 – said she was inspired by this era: “I used to love the sound of flashbulbs going off at the shows in the 80s, when the models were on a raised runway. I wanted to recapture that emotion.” A cover version of George Michael’s 1990 song Freedom! on the soundtrack drove the point home.
Chanel has recently become popular with Gen Z, and a reference as part of a wider 90s revival. The singer Olivia Rodrigo wore a vintage Chanel suit to visit the White House in July and the label was worn by cast members in the recent reboot of Gossip Girl. While the label remains a favourite of France’s grande dames, this collection clearly courts the well-heeled segment of the Gen Z demographic.
Viard’s shows, however, have largely steered clear of the social-media friendly theatrics that Lagerfeld employed in his later career – with a Chanel supermarket in 2014 and a rocket on the catwalk in 2017, for example.
The presentation was low-key and at a smaller scale to that of previous shows (the Grand Palais, where Chanel shows took place since 2006, was closed for refurbishment).
Guests walked in to a simple set featuring the Chanel logo on a white wall and films of Gen Z-friendly women including the actor Lily-Rose Depp, the model Quannah Chasinghorse-Potts and Jennie, the lead singer of Blackpink who is known to some fans as “human Chanel”. The subjects of the films also sat in the front row.