Paris – Art returned to the glittering world of Chanel couture on Tuesday with giant animal statues swarming the center of the catwalk like a surreal zoo for the Paris Fashion Week show.
Designer Virginie Viard collaborated with contemporary artist Xavier Veilhan who used the Coco Chanel founder’s home apartment as a creative springboard for her carnival-themed spring decor.
And yet, as simplistic, lifeless and monochromatic as the animals—made of wood, paper, and uncoated cardboard— appeared, the Chanel collection contrasted wildly, resplendent with color and sequins in an extraordinarily vibrant display.
Here are some highlights:
CHANEL Animal Parade
Vilhan said he wanted to “evoke the ever-evolving relationship with animals in our societies.”
A front row that included Marion Cotillard, Tilda Swinton, G-Dragon and Vanessa Paradis, watch a massive camel, bull, fish, horse and lion that look like cellphones explode on this bizarre amphitheater, below a ceiling fixture with large geometry discs.
A bird was lunging with a large beak and countless dingy wooden poles seemed to be giving birth to a model wearing a top hat and a split white riding jacket with a fringed skirt. There were guests reaching for their cameras — and someone called it the “Trojan chick.”
The rest of the group seemed less directly connected to the animal theme — and that level of subtlety wasn’t a bad thing. There were strong equestrian styles, building on ideas from Viard’s previous seasons. Here, the riding jacket was a central theme, layered in shiny silk tweed over miniskirts and youth skirts.
There were plenty of fun quirks in the long white gloves, black and white ties and tight-fitting gold or black boots with white laces resembling boxers – which sometimes felt disconnected from the overall aesthetic.
The detailing of this over-the-top, sometimes poetic design—which sparkled throughout with brocade, foil, sequins and shiny silk—speaks for itself.
One loose, amorphous gown shimmered like a silver fish with thousands of embroidered sequins and black, white and gold silk bodice. Elsewhere, a thickly woven bell skirt was created using undulating layers of white silk like an underwater shell, or perhaps a thin stratos cloud.
Cirque Armani Prive
At the grand stone entrance to the Garde Républicaine, Giorgio Armani’s late start forces guests – some scantily dressed – to wait in the bitter evening chill. Once given the go-ahead, Michelle Yeoh was among the first to walk the Romantic Lantern Trail — making her “so happy to be here.” Then came Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, extolling the “feminist power of haute couture”.
Juliette Binoche dodged questions about playing Coco Chanel in the upcoming Apple TV series “The New Look,” saying, “It’s not tonight, now is the time to support Giorgio – he’s a huge supporter of artists.”
Once the media circus had subsided, guests were seated on a clown stage lined with intricately colored emulsions, before a merry set.
Silk bolero jackets opened the ’80s show, with lozenges popping up throughout—first as the jacket’s three-dimensional relief and, most dramatically, on a cinched hem.
The highly delicate embroideries in every color under the sun are dripped down in sometimes A-line and body-hugging column shades.
But so many styles and hues came together in this fairly all-encompassing ensemble, with oversized bejeweled floral appliqués, dazzling sequined jackets and geometric-patterned turtlenecks—that made the show as a whole difficult to pin down.
Sometimes the clothes were overly structured, like one paneled gown that creased awkwardly at the skirt, but there was just too much dazzling and glamor that many of the guests didn’t notice.
Alexis Mabel color
His fusion of costume design mixed with drama.
French designer Alexis Mabille paired ancient Greek tunics with sarees in bright colors for a South Asian outfit. She produced a soft spring collection with longer silhouettes and fluttering scarves that used dozens of yards of floor-draping silk.
Bejeweled flowers adorn the hairdo, which flows freely, like draped lengths of fabric.
Green gown with a bottle cut flattering hourglass silhouette. It reshaped the model’s body—open at the sides, wider at the top—and was held in place by a Grecian waistband. The porcelain blue gown, flowing disorderly from a round neck to the floor, was notable for its pure simplicity.
Not everything was a hit, though, like the blue hoodie dress with slightly mismatched lapels, and a misplaced belt that confused the eye.
Stéphane Rolland goes to glam
A movie was shown on a giant screen for Stéphane Rolland’s guests before the show, and it featured an homage to the 1959 movie “Black Orpheus,” which was shot in Brazil. The film, which won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, is set in the context of a favela during the famous Carnival period.
But Roland seemed more interested in carnivals than he was in poverty in any favela—and the costume design itself was edgy, groovy with a ballroom kick, and, as always, very sculptural.
The pure white and black gowns were adorned with a giant piece of cloth, one as a floor-scraping train or as a huge neck band when the model shifted to a bare back. The other look, and one of the best from the ensemble, was a 3D backless mini dress with a bias-cut skirt. It launched into a huge hip wave.
Rolland’s play on the dramatic effect of the body reveals the purity of the often clean-cut lengths of fabric—with plunging V-necklines, split skirts and cropped shoulders.
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