“We prefer a dream to controversy”: Chanel at Paris Fashion Week | chanels

Like the Eiffel Tower hovering over the city, Chanel’s role is to rise above Parisian fashion, even when caught unawares by catwalk antics like Kanye West’s, said the brand’s fashion president Bruno Pavlovsky.

“Fashion week encompasses a lot of the sentiments of the moment,” Pavlovsky said ahead of his show on the final day of Paris Fashion Week. “But at Chanel, we prefer a dream, some serenity, to controversy.”

Chanel designer Virginie Viard based her latest collection on Alain Resnais’ new wave classic Last Year at Marienbad, which won the Lion d’Or at the 1961 Venice Film Festival. Coco Chanel designed the screen wardrobe for her star Delphine Seyrig. The timeless, out-of-period chic of the wardrobe Chanel created for Seyrig, including a classic Chanel two-piece suit and black chiffon cocktail dress, was specifically designed to underscore the complex storytelling of the avant-garde twists in the chronology of the film , in which the story unfolds in enigmatic flashbacks.

The audience of the Chanel show sat like in the cinema in front of a huge screen showing a montage of scenes from the film. Models walked the runway in front of the screen, wearing clothes that were due to go on sale in Chanel boutiques the following spring, but which could very well have been on film in 1961. The classic black chiffon cocktail dresses, ladylike polka dots and sleek, elongated evening gowns emphasized the timelessness of the Chanel aesthetic. The feather trimming of a cream dress worn in the film showed up on a variety of outfits, from party dresses to tweed suits.

Creations by designer Virginie Viard at the Chanel show
Creations by designer Virginie Viard at the Chanel show. Photo: Johanna Geron/Reuters

Ahead of the show, Pavlovsky stressed the importance of Chanel’s ongoing commitment to brick-and-mortar retail over e-commerce for the brand. “We have more customers than ever in our boutiques in each location,” he said. “Chanel isn’t about a product, it’s about a silhouette and a spirit. The best place to experience silhouette is in a dressing room. With digital you can see the product but you can’t see the spirit. The creative energy that you experience in a boutique is the best way for us to quantify the value of Chanel.”

Pavlovsky added that Chanel’s global price equalization strategy, interpreted by some commentators as the first step towards e-commerce, “was the best way for us to organize at a time of so much economic tension. There is a lot of uncertainty – for example we’re looking at what’s happening in the UK – and we need to make sure we create the right conditions for Chanel to keep creating.”

The first Chanel show in Africa will take place on December 6th in Dakar, Senegal. “That was Virginia [Viard]’s initiative,” Pavlovsky said. “If you look at a map, Chanel has been all over the world except Africa. From day one, Virginie said this was missing something important at Chanel.” He added that the choice of Dakar reflects the city’s importance as a focal point for modern African art and its craft heritage.

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