There are few fashion brands who really ruled the '90s the way that Chanel did — but if Karl Lagerfeld's designs were popular at the time, they've become near-mythological since, with images and GIFs of supers clad in pastel, micro-mini tweed skirts and the tiniest string bikinis bouncing around nearly every image sharing platform on Al Gore's Internet, from Pinterest and Tumblr to Instagram and TikTok.
While we're all still in the throes of a '90s and early aughts resurgence, Virginie Viard thought Spring 2022 would be the right time to revisit that period in the French house's rich history, down to the staging of the runway. Chanel stripped back its typically ornate set pieces in favor of a simple black tent and black folding chairs for press and buyers. (How retro!) Models preened and pranced all at once down a catwalk lined with photographers; some even — gasp! — smiled.
"I used to love the sound of flashbulbs going off at the shows in the eighties, when the models were on a raised runway," Viard wrote in the show notes. "I wanted to recapture that emotion."
All the fun throwbacks in the world won't work if the clothes don't support them, and in this case, they mostly do. Viard didn't quite go as revealing as her predecessor, but those mini tweed sets are there, as are the black-and-white bathing suits (sporty over stringy, this time). Skirts sling low at the hips and dresses are cut out at the waist to show off a flash of the skin underneath; knit crop tops and boy shorts will provide street style fodder for the braver young things who wear Chanel. Two pairs of overalls, one in leather and one in a butterfly printed denim, nail a perfectly-louche fit. There are even tiny quilted bucket bags and heart-shaped top handles — sure to be a sell-out item, considering how highly coveted the original iteration is on the secondhand market.
None of these are 100% archive-faithful takes. Viard is committed to her vision for Chanel, which does seem — thankfully and unusually — to consider practicality for the women she dresses. The shoes are an excellent example: Unlike other runways where models teetered on stilettos ready to snap at any moment, at Chanel, models stomp confidently on low-slung sandals and chunky-heeled Mary Janes.
There were still some odd styling and silhouette choices at the Spring 2022 show, like A-line skirts layered over bermuda shorts, and the suite of chiffon pieces at the end felt out of place and dowdy after all those youthful looks. (Of course, not every Chanel customer wants a short skirted suit set, so: fair.) I also wish she'd leaned harder into the pastels of it all instead of retreating into her preferred color palette of black mixed with near-neon shades.
Still, this felt like a step in the right direction for Viard, whose collections have lacked a sense of playfulness that made Chanel so fun for many decades. With a different stylist — and perhaps someone who could really cut loose with accessories — Viard's designs could move from the mundane to the magical.
See the full Chanel Spring 2022 collection in the gallery below.