Coco Chanel was more than in sync with her times, she defined them. Independent and active, she designed clothes that rejected the idea of decorative womanhood. Chanel had places to go, people to meet, things to do, and hearts to break—and fashion was just one of her passions. The designer collaborated with the Ballets Russes, was romantically entangled with the poet Pierre Reverdy, and supported artists throughout her life.
In keeping with the founder’s engagement with the arts, today the house launches Chanel Connects, a new podcast focused on “what matters most and what happens next,” says Chanel global head of arts and culture Yana Peel. The series brings a bright constellation of creative minds together for eight intimate conversations on subject like portraiture, heroines, risky choices, and untold fashion stories, in which participants from the worlds of music, art, dance, architecture, film, and fashion reflect on the challenges, and promises, of these unsettled times.
The podcasts are a compelling and comprehensive document of the obstacles and promises facing us today, touching on everything from gaming to spirituality. While the participants, which include musician Pharrell Williams, director Lulu Wang, and actor Tilda Swinton, are optimistic about the future, none of them try to sugarcoat things or avoid the sadness and trauma of the last year. “Bearing witness has a cost,” states painter Jennifer Packer. Inclusivity and empathy are top of the collective agenda; there’s also a consensus that with opportunity comes responsibility. “Once you see something, you can’t unsee it anymore,” noted Williams.
Taken as a whole, these seven episodes (soon to be eight), amounting to roughly three and a half hours of conversation, are a state of the union, and a blueprint for creating a better world. Here, some of the big takeaways.
Yes isn’t always the right answer.
“We’re just too massively distracted by, you know, our assistants. Everyone has a personal assistant: It’s called your phone and it has never told you no. It tells you yes for everything. Our phones have made us incredibly dependent on the word yes. And because of that, we’ve become opportunistic.” —Pharrell Williams, music producer, entrepreneur, and fashion designer, from “Imagining New Worlds”
Boundaries are for breaking.
“Nobody wants to be boxed in. Nobody wants the terms in which their work is apprehended or appreciated or not liked to be so narrow and be so, you know, over-determined in a way. I mean, I think everybody is looking for a non-contaminated reading of what they do, but I guess I came to a certain conclusion at some point where I felt like these arguments about whether I’m an artist or a Black artist, all those kinds of arguments, they were determining aspects of the contexts in which we find ourselves, you know; it’s like, no escaping that. And the conversation about it is a thing unto itself, like that has a relationship to what you make.” —Artist Arthur Jafa from “Seeing the Unseen”
Heroes stand for something.
“The industry’s changed. The media landscape has changed. Heroes have changed. I think celebrities [and] celebrity culture will always be around, but I think it will be [focused on] celebrities who stand for something, not just for themselves.” —Edward Enninful, editor in chief of British Vogue and European editorial director of Vogue’s European Editions, from “Who’s in the Picture?”
Empathy is key.
“We need diverse voices. I think culture is there for escapism, obviously, but mostly it’s there so that you walk in other people’s shoes and you see the world through different people’s eyes.” —Actor Keira Knightley from “The New Heroines”
Build bridges between the material and digital realms.
“I spent quite a lot of time at the beginning of the lockdown in Fortnite with my son. […] I began to enter into his world, and I realized that he is associating memories with this virtual landscape, the way that I associate memories with physical landscape. […] I do think that in the future of gaming, one of the things I’m very interested in is, can we make a game that will seduce and entrance my son as much as Fortnite does, but instead of just keeping him entranced by the pixels, [it] will lead him back out into the planet? Is there a game that takes me in through a computer, but magically leads me out the other side of the computer, back to the trees, back to the sea, back to the stars, back to Mars, back to the grass, back to the sand, back to the things I can touch? Because I’ve still got a body, this is the inconvenient thing. The pace of evolution of our minds is fast, but we’ve still got these inconvenient bodies stuck to our brains, right? They don’t seem to be evaporating. They’re still here: these weird appendages called bodies.” —Artist and stage designer Es Devlin from “Imagining New Worlds”
“I do believe that art is essential and I think that stories are essential. And so how do I contribute my voice to that landscape in a way that is essential, you know? And so I’m just much more thoughtful, even more than I was before of my role in an industry where 99% of the people don’t look like me and don’t bring the perspective I bring…. Now I’m much more thoughtful about, how do I not just have a seat at their table? How do I build tables? You know, how do I bring other people? And it’s also all about community.” —Writer and director Lulu Wang from “The New Heroines”
Teach, don’t preach.
“I think that if you can demonstrate the impact of the issues on human lives, you know, then you can find ways to get past the audience’s defenses or bias regarding important topics.” —Documentary filmmaker Eliza Hittman, from “The Lure of the Risky Choice”
Look at the big picture.
“I see God in science, especially astronomy, because to me, the universe is one song, right? Uni-verse. No matter how crazy it gets, you know, when you stare out in space, you realize how vast existence is. It gives you hope. All you have to do is think to yourself, you know, every star is just like our star. It’s surrounded by its own solar system. Every time you’re looking at a star, there are planets around it. And you look at the sheer math of that. It’s insurmountable, it’s unknowable, it’s unmeasurable. It’s just way too much. You realize that, like at some point we’re going to be okay.” —Pharrell Williams, from “Imagining New Worlds”
“I think it’s a time to think big and think differently, and a time for idealism, in a way. Fashion’s always been very good at reflecting the times, but I think now it’s changing to reacting to them. There’s a change, a difference from reflecting the times to reacting to the times. As a curator, the idea of looking back into history and not changing narratives, but creating new narratives and creating new definitions and new approaches, is really exciting.” —Curator Andrew Bolton, from “Fashion’s Untold Stories”
This article was originally published on Vogue.com