Chanel’s spring/summer 2022 haute couture show swept social media thanks to the efforts of Charlotte Casiraghi – muse to the late Karl Lagerfeld – who opened the presentation at the Grand Palais Éphémère on horseback. British Vogue’s fashion critic, Anders Christian Madsen, was in the audience.
A horse opened the show
By now, it’s the stuff of social media legend: a horse opened the Chanel haute couture show. It was ridden by Charlotte Casiraghi, the show jumper and brand ambassador, who – as the daughter of Princess Caroline of Hanover and granddaughter of Grace Kelly – held a very special place in the heart of Karl Lagerfeld. Casiraghi wore a Chanel riding jacket in black tweed and sequins, heralding a collection founded in unexpected dialogues between materials, spaces and occasions. “The idea for the show’s décor came from a longstanding desire to work with Xavier Veilhan. His references to constructivism remind me of those of Karl Lagerfeld,” Virginie Viard said, referring to the artist best known for his graphic sculpture work. “Xavier wanted to work with Charlotte Casiraghi. His artistic universe is full of horses, and Charlotte is a skilled rider.”
It was a collaborative effort
The set imagined a surreal show jumping course erected inside the Grand Palais Éphémère, the construction by the Eiffel Tower currently filling in for the Grand Palais while it’s under refurbishment, which will also serve as a venue for the Paris Olympics in 2024. Within it, Veilhan created supersized objects, from stable elements to enormous instruments played by the musician Sébastian Tellier, who has worked with Chanel in the past. “Xavier and Sébastien are friends. Along with Charlotte, they form the kind of Chanel family that I like to surround myself with,” Viard said. She described the set design as a place that made her feel free, and you could see that in the collection. There was an ease and confidence in the way she matched and clashed textures and codes in the same looks, creating a dynamic and liberal wardrobe that literally turned heads.
The collection played with clashes and constructivism
“Virginie plays with the construction of dresses and how to bring embroideries into them. There is such a big number of people working on these dresses, it makes them quite special. In couture, your imagination can allow you to do these kinds of pieces,” said Bruno Pavlovsky, Chanel’s president of fashion. Viard worked with each of Chanel’s specialist embroiderers on the collection, underlining the collaborative premise of the show. The embroideries materialised in geometric shapes mixed and matched across eveningwear. A graphic black and white pattern of a cape collar crowned a floor-length filtrage dress in silver and grey lace. An iridescent sequin-embroidered brassiere descended into a sheer bustier that waterfalled into a transparent tiered skirt with hems that looked like tie-dye. And a translucent dress with a skirt that ballooned over itself was structured from constructivist intarsia shapes.
The daywear game was strong
In a time when haute couture is often associated with ballgowns and banquets, and more houses are launching or relaunching haute couture collections, hoping to elevate their brand value and get a piece of this highly exclusive cake, Chanel’s attention to daywear stood out. “In the day of Coco Chanel, haute couture was for everyday. It wasn’t just for cocktails and red carpets. I think this is quite important,” Pavlovsky said. “At Chanel, we have two ateliers that focus on tailoring – which is the opposite of flou – and a new generation in training to be able to offer this daywear. The customer can pick pieces for any time of the day. It’s not just incredible dresses. In this collection, we have some daywear silhouettes which are amazing, if I may say so.” He wasn’t just tooting the Chanel horn. Viard’s check tweed skirt suits slit open at the front, with broderie anglaise bursting out from within, and her handsomely sculpted jackets with voluminous trousers were fitting examples of what haute couture can do to daywear.
Chanel is happy with other houses launching haute couture
Pavlovsky, however, is excited about the current enthusiasm for haute couture. “The more of us there are, the better it is. Haute couture is about Paris, and the more strong designers we can have, the better it is for all of us. To see more and more designers wanting to develop haute couture is the best signal we can have,” he said. “Couture… I don’t want to say it’s ‘no limits’, because it’s not about limits, but it’s the best of today. Virginie offers a collection, which is, for her, the best of what she wants to do. Here, we don’t need to think about how to manufacture, etc. We have one hundred people working in the atelier. We have the Metiers d’Art. It’s a small business with very high-quality customers. We don’t need to explain to everyone that haute couture isn’t the same as ready-to-wear. Ready-to-wear is a business from the ’70s, but Chanel has been doing haute couture since the beginning,” Pavlovsky said.
This article was originally published on Vogue UK.