Chanel takes a dip: Viard’s spring show brings Paris stalwart down to earth

PARIS – As Chanel’s models took their sashay down the Paris runway, guests could practically hear the faint splashes from the pools of the villa Noailles.

This historic cubist space in the south of France, once graced by luminaries like Buñuel, Man Ray, Dali —and also Karl Lagerfeld — has for more than a century been a beacon for art.

Virginie Viard’s spring collection emerged as a sun-drenched ode to liberty and movement, inspired directly from the villa’s gardens. With Gigi Hadid leading the pack in flip-flops, the stalwart was stripped of its typical high-brow allure, grounding Chanel styles in an earthy, relaxed summer vibe.

Here are some highlights, including when Penélope Cruz told The Associated Press why heartfelt memories of her grandmother drew her to fashion.

VIARD MAKES CHANEL RELATEABLE

“Sophistication juxtaposed with informality, the ever-present tweed, sporty touches, and delicate lace: I aimed for a harmonious blend of contrasts,” Viard said. Using the sunlit gardens and tranquil pool of the villa as a muse, her collection leaned away from Lagerfeld’s signature high-glam aesthetic, presenting a panorama of comfort, chicness — and, gasp, relatability.

The parade began with multicolored tweed dressing gowns, their luxurious threads catching the light as models moved. Neoprene suits followed, blending technology and youth. Easygoing, low-slung outfits that evoked an air of carefree leisure faintly contrasted with detailed geometric designs gracing several pieces. Lace trimmings whispered of femininity and delicate craftsmanship, while sporty accents gave the ensembles a touch of the everyday.

This was Viard’s Chanel: clothes that seemed relaxed and with nothing to prove. It felt as if she, herself, after four years at the creative helm of the maison also was saying she too had nothing to prove either.

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There were moments when the display would have benefitted from a touch more innovation, perhaps a fresh design twist that could have set the collection apart, especially when keeping Lagerfeld’s inventive legacy in mind. Some ensembles, though impeccably tailored, played it a tad too safe.

Yet, the power of this collection lay not in dramatic novelty but in its accessibility. The use of midsized models on Tuesday, for instance, was a relatable gesture that speaks volumes of Viard’s intent to make Chanel resonate with a broader audience.

Viard’s Chanel feels less about dazzling the onlooker and more about connecting with her. It’s this very authenticity, a blend of luxury and everyday resonance, that is setting her apart. While Lagerfeld’s Chanel was an aspiration, Viard’s is becoming a reflection. In making Chanel relatable, she’s not only navigating but is redefining her space.

CRUZ RECALLS EMBROIDERED SHAWL: A LIFETIME OF FASHION

In a candid moment with the AP at Chanel’s spring collection, Cruz’s love for fashion was poignantly traced back to a handcrafted symbol: the Manton di Manila.

“My grandmother made by hand a Manton di Manila,” Cruz shared, her eyes alight with emotion. “If I had to keep only one thing from the objects that I have and materials, it would be that one because she spent 40 hours, or maybe even more, sewing by hand.” This Manila shawl, an embroidered silk shawl derived from the Filipino pañuelo, not only stands as a testament to her grandmother’s craftsmanship but has also profoundly influenced Cruz’s appreciation for artisanal fashion.

She beautifully juxtaposed this sentiment with Chanel’s enduring commitment to craftsmanship, stating, “When you go to a building, like 19 rue Cambon at Chanel and you see all the materials, the people working in such an artisanal way, working with their hands, I really hope the world will not lose that.”

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Drawing on heartwarming memories, Cruz added, “When I was a little girl, I used to play with my sister like we would draw on top of the magazines to change the designs. Never change a Chanel design, of course,” she said, smiling.

Last month, Cruz alongside her sister, Mónica Cruz, unveiled a fashion collection on Instagram, hinting at her deep-seated respect for the craft. Yet, as the longtime ambassador for Chanel confessed, her profound appreciation for fashion is tied to cherished memories and heirlooms, noting, “I’ve always had it, probably because of their relationship with my grandmother.”