Chanel hosted its cruise 2021/22 replica fashion show at Dubai Creek Harbour on Tuesday, in front of 1,000 guests, followed by an after-party where John Legend played live. Guests included Hollywood star Penelope Cruz, model Caroline de Maigret and Algerian actress Sofia Boutella.
For this season's cruise offering, Virginie Viard, Chanel’s creative director for fashion collections, drew inspiration from the friendship between Gabrielle "Coco" Chanel and artist Jean Cocteau, who were close correspondents for many years.
Viard reworked many of Cocteau's handwritten flourishes into her pieces, such as the star he used to scribble next to his signature and the doves that littered his letters. His sketches, meanwhile, were transformed into black and white prints that adorned fluid kaftans.
“The simplicity, the poetry, the power of Cocteau's Testament of Orpheus, shot in Provence, made me want a very clean collection," Viard explains. "Jackets in black or white tweed, capes in black macrame, trousers in thick white Provencal canvas embroidered with black flowers or meadow flowers.”
To this end, the collection was almost devoid of colour, reduced instead to crisp whites and inky blacks that served to highlight the simplicity of Viard’s cuts. Viard also took away all the frippery, such as the piles of jewellery often found adorning Chanel outfits. Instead, she added something harder and more punk, such as graphic prints T-shirts, leather fringing and fishnet nets. The result was fresh, young and brimming with a new streetwise attitude.
The few traces of softness that were left felt all the more precious, such as pieces scattered with spindly embroidered flowers. “In reference to the beauty of Les Baux-de-Provence, there’s a dress with an embroidered print evoking the village and the garrigue, a long white shirt-dress in crepe de chine with the freshness of loose-fitting painters’ smocks, and white trousers in thick Provencal cotton canvas, embroidered with black flowers,” explained Viard.
To recreate the show in Dubai, Chanel called on many of the models used in the original Paris presentation, including Mahany Pery, Jill Kortleve, Rebecca Longendyke, Nora Attal and Park Soo-joo.
The Dubai audience was able to see up-close the tiny details otherwise lost in digital presentations – such as the delicate double Cs on the fishnet tights, embroidered sleeves that were, in fact, leather or kaftans so light, they floated like parachutes. There was a dress with a back deeply cut to follow the curvature of the spine, and ankle boots so densely covered in sequins, they created their own thick patterning.
There were also the couture touches, such as a softly checked dress in pastel tones that was woven from hand-dyed ribbons, or a tweed jacket festooned in shiny talismans.
Speaking after the show, Boutella shared her impression of the collection. “I thought it was so beautiful, and so elegant and strong, and a lot of the pieces had a lot of rhythm to them. I loved all the fringes, and the flowy-ness, and I loved the tights and the details of the flowers."
Praising the collection, which was created by a woman, for women, Boutella seemed delighted that Viard was now helming the house. "Virgine has been in the Chanel family for so long," she said. "But I love that it’s a woman, and I love that it is her."