To say that the shadow of Karl Lagerfeld looms large over Chanel would be something of an understatement. With his instantly-recognizable head of white hair (always tied back into a low ponytail) and signature dark sunglasses, headline-making quips and over-the-top runways, he is arguably the most famous fashion designer of the last 50 years.
And while current creative director Virginie Viard hasn't shied away from acknowledging the enormous legacy of her predecessor and mentor, she's definitely forged her own path at the French fashion house. Her shows, while still blockbuster-level, are more restrained, her collections more subtle.
So it was something of a surprise when Chanel unveiled its Cruise 2022 collection in Monte-Carlo on Thursday and Lagerfeld was cited as one of Viard's key muses.
"To me, Monaco is a matter of feelings above all. That's Karl, Caroline, Charlotte," she says in the show notes. (That would be Caroline and Charlotte Casiraghi, members of the Monégasque royal family and longtime friends of the house.) "From very early on, I knew we would hold a show there, and more precisely at the Beach Hotel. Besides, Karl was dreaming about it. From this magnificent venue, one can glimpse his villa, La Vigie. I will never forget the times I spent there: terraces and balconies, big umbrellas, baskets of flowers - so much beauty."
Sofia and Roman Coppola worked together on teaser trailers for the collection — this is Chanel, the Marvel of fashion, so of course collections get teaser trailers — placing the pieces firmly in the context of this jet-set, glamorous locale: We see models diving into clear blue pools, racing sleek speedboats across the open sea, jumping into fast cars, all interspersed with archival photos from the brand's past jaunts in Monaco.
The collection itself is slightly less glam than all that, instead going for a more sporty feel with a fabulous twist.
"A sporty atmosphere, but not only," Viard says. "There are lots of tweed or silk jumpsuits lined with light terry cloth. Many sequins and flowers shape embroidered plastrons adorning thinly striped long shirt-dresses with white high collars – a nod to Karl – a sequined midnight blue dress, or backless tops worn over wide-cut trousers."
Chanel's signature tweed takes the form of race track-ready jumpsuits in flashy reds or pristine whites. The silhouette also comes in black denim, but for those not looking to fully commit, there's jogger pants in shiny metallics. Baggy leather shorts, hot pants and tweed minis are occasionally styled over sheer black tights in another nod to Caroline. "The first time I saw Caroline was on the beach in Monaco. She was wearing a draped black dress, very thin tights and heels," Viard says.
There's a suite of loose and flowy chiffon dresses, as well as striped shirtdresses. Chanel's Cruise 2022 eveningwear options include slinky, asymmetrical skirts paired with sequined tops or delicate white lace skirt-and-tube-top combos. And it wouldn't be a resort collection without swimwear: Black one-pieces are embellished in a way that feels rich and even slightly formal, including one with a rhinestone buttoned-placket.
The accessories nod to Monaco's monied reputation: miniaudières shaped like poker chips and slot machines, tennis bags both practical and miniature, Formula 1 helmets emblazoned with Chanel motifs, sequined baseball caps with finish-line details.
Footwear goes in a few different directions, from metallic lamé sneakers to black satin shoes which take their cues from the pointe shoes worn by the Monte-Carlo ballet.
Still, even with all the nods to Lagerfeld, Viard's stamp was all over this collection; nothing felt like a Lagerfeld-redux. She has her established silhouettes — louche pants, boxy tops over maxi-skirts, the occasional legging-under-skirt trick — which are all present here. It was nice to see Viard have a little more fun with accessories this season, and there was a joy present for Cruise 2022 that shines through the clothes.
"Monaco is inherent to the history of Chanel," Viard says. "We have lived so many happy moments there."
See the complete Chanel Cruise 2022 collection in the gallery below: