In a year during which it feels the rules of time have completely collapsed, it doesn't seems like that long ago that we had a Chanel fashion show. But that was all the way back in early October, nearly two months ago — which, in Chanel time, is approximately one whole year — and that means it's time for another outing.
Up next on the docket? The annual Métiers d'Art collection, which serves as the brand's pre-fall line, as well as a show of creative force across all its artisans, comprising paruriers from Desrues, feathermakers from Lemarié, milliners from Maison Michel, embroiderers from Lesage and Atelier Montex, shoemakers from Massaro, goldsmiths from Goossens, glovemakers from Causse Gantier and pleaters from Lognon.
Returning to the tradition of staging the Métiers show in some glamorous, far-flung locale — past collections have been seen at The Met in New York City, the Elbphilharmonie in Hamburg and Rome's Cinecittà — Thursday's show was set at the famous Château de Chenonceau, a castle in France's Loire Valley spanning across the river Cher that had once served as the home of Catherine de Medici. Renewed Covid-19 restrictions in France whittled the audience down to just one sole member: None other than brand ambassador Kristen Stewart. (Pretty chic, as far as these things go.)
Chanel creative director Virginie Viard drew inspiration from her historical surroundings, playing with drama while not veering into costume. The sophistication of this collection was a welcome return to form for Chanel after a rather blah outing for Spring 2021; the knits were sublime and the coats real standout pieces. The proportion of the shapes, whether a balloon sleeve or a wide-legged pant, felt less sloppy and more wearable than they have in seasons past. And the tweed hot shorts were a significantly better executed nod to Chanel's younger customer than the bodysuit situation we saw in October — though, those are still here, thankfully layered under suits and dresses.
It was nice to see Viard experiment with statement-making accessories, from the headbands with clusters of pearls that dangled delicately around the models' temples, to the sparkling miniaudières shaped like the château. (The tiny black hats, a subtler take on the hennin style popular during the medieval period, were definitely too kitsch to work in real life but were a fun nod to the surroundings on the runway.) The shoes, too, were lovely, whether they were glitter-encrusted platforms or satin pumps in super-saturated colors.
But the real question is whether Viard can make the key styling trick from the show stick: Slick, shiny leggings in shades of pink, gray and blue layered under everything from miniskirts to open frock coats. The look has been a mainstay of the modest fashion community for years, but in these fabrics, it does also bring to mind visions of mid-aughts mistakes involving Abercrombie micro-mini denim skirts and Ugg boots.
The Métiers collection is the chance for Viard to really show off what Chanel and its various houses are capable of, and she plays in the space well. It would be nice to see her bring that same spirit to her designs the rest of the year, too.
See the complete Chanel Métiers d'Art 2021 collection in the gallery below: