Like the Eiffel Tower above the city, Chanel’s role is to “rise above” Parisian fashion even as it is blindsided by runway antics like Kanye West’s, the brand’s president of fashion said, Bruno Pavlovsky.
“Fashion week encompasses a lot of the feelings of the moment,” Pavlovsky said before his show on the last day of Paris fashion week. “But at Chanel we prefer a dream, a bit of serenity, to controversy.”
Chanel designer Virginie Viard based her latest collection on the classic New Wave Last Year at Marienbad by Alain Resnais, which won the Golden Lion at the Venice film festival in 1961. Coco Chanel designed the on-screen costumes for her star, Delphine Seyrig. The timeless, timeless elegance of the wardrobe Chanel created for Seyrig, which included a classic Chanel two-piece suit and a black chiffon cocktail dress, was planned specifically to enhance the complex narrative of avant-garde twists in the timeline of the film, in which the story unfolds in enigmatic flashbacks.
The audience at the Chanel show was seated theater-style in front of a giant screen showing a montage of scenes from the film. The models paraded in front of the screen, wearing garments that will go on sale in Chanel boutiques next spring, but could very well have been filmed in 1961. Classic black chiffon cocktail dresses, feminine polka dots, and Supple, elongated evening gowns emphasized the timelessness of Chanel’s aesthetic. The feather trim from a cream-colored dress worn in the film appeared on various outfits, from ball gowns to tweed suits.
Speaking before the show, Pavlovsky stressed the importance to the brand of Chanel’s continued commitment to brick-and-mortar stores over e-commerce. “We have more customers coming to our boutiques, everywhere, than ever before,” he said. “Chanel is not about a product, it is about a silhouette and a spirit. The best place to experience the silhouette is in a dressing room. With digital you can see the product, but you can’t see the spirit. The creative energy you experience in a boutique is the best way to quantify the value of Chanel.”
Pavlovsky added that Chanel’s strategy of global price alignment, interpreted by some commentators as a first step toward e-commerce, was “the best way to organize ourselves at a time of so much economic stress. There’s a lot of uncertainty, for example, we look at what’s happening in the UK, and we have to make sure we create the right conditions for Chanel to continue to be creative.”
On December 6, a show in Dakar, Senegal will be the first Chanel show to be held in Africa. “This was Virginie [Viard’s] initiative,” Pavlovsky said. “When you look at a map, Chanel has been everywhere in the world except Africa. From day one, Virginie said that this was something important that Chanel was missing.” He added that the choice of Dakar reflects the city’s prominence as a focal point for modern African art, as well as its craft heritage.