Chanel this week made history by becoming the first high-end brand to deliver a fashion show staged solely online.
The original catwalk display for the label's cruise collection was meant to happen in May, in sunny Capri, but that plan was swept away by Covid-19, and instead realised as a digital-only show held on Monday, June 8.
Chanel's artistic director Virginie Viard looked to the elegant Italian beach town of Capri for inspiration, and then widened her gaze across the sun-drenched islands of the Mediterranean, for a collection called Balade en Mediterranee, meaning literally walk in the Mediterranean.
“Initially I had Capri in mind, where the show was supposed to take place, but didn’t happen in the end because of lockdown,” explained Viard.
“So we had to adapt: not only did we decide to use fabrics that we already had, but the collection, more generally, evolved towards a trip around the Mediterranean … The islands, the scent of the eucalyptus, the pink shades of the bougainvillea.”
Envisioned to be filled with multipurpose, adaptable pieces, Viard explained she wanted the collection to be “a wardrobe that can be carried in a little suitcase on wheels, a shopper and an embroidered handbag".
The 51-look show was presented on Chanel's social media channels via a slick seven-minute film shot entirely in Paris. In a studio, a pebble-strewn beach was constructed – complete with a huge 'sea' backdrop – in front of which models posed in sequined bikini tops and boucle tweed skirts.
There were washed denim Capri pants (inevitably), while more denim appeared as vast flared trousers, made bigger by panels of camellia-print fabric running down the sides. Founder Coco's favourite flower was made into a large, blousy print that appeared as a loose bag, and a flounced, off-shoulder top.
Tweed came in crisp white, peach, bougainvillea pink and midnight black, but always felt light and fresh. Tweed was omnipresent in the collection except in the classic Chanel jacket, which was instead carved from leather.
Lots of short shorts, bikini tops under jackets and Chanel's fabled chain belts meant that this collection was laidback, youthful and, well, fun.
Since taking over the reins at Chanel, Viard has softened the maison's look, relaxing the strict codes that her predecessor Karl Lagerfeld so adored. Gone are the rigid cuts, replaced instead with something looser and more casual, that feels fresh and exciting once again.
Viard is writing a brave new chapter in Chanel's history, and I, for one, am grateful.