Spring/summer 2021 has been a season of phygital fashion, from blended reality presentations to purist runway shows. After two virtual collection reveals, Chanel has opted for the latter this season, staging its show at the Grand Palais—possibly its last at the historic site in the near future as the venue prepares to shut for major refurbishments. But Paris and Chanel have an inextricable relationship, over at the newly reopened Palais Galliera, a retrospective exhibition, ‘Gabrielle Chanel: Fashion Manifesto’, chronicles the milestones and work of Gabrielle Chanel. Paris can’t escape Chanel, and vice versa.
But this season saw Virginie Viard paying tribute to another major city—you might know it as La-La Land, Tinseltown, Los Angeles. Whichever moniker it goes by, the city is known for one thing: Hollywood. Synonymous with glitz and glamour—but also fame and folly—the city has had a long love affair with the silver screen. Enlisting the help of photographers Inez & Vinoodh, Chanel produced a cinematic short featuring the work of French directors, Jean-Luc Godard, Louis Malle and Jacques Deray, as well as French actresses, Anna Karina, Romy Schneider and Jeanne Moreau. This close collaboration with cinema was by no means a random draw from the Chanel hat of themes—Gabrielle Chanel herself was a costume designer for directors such as Luchino Visconti and Roger Vadin. Earlier this year in April, the brand seemed to already drop hints of this spring/summer 2021 focus, releasing an episode of its ‘Inside Chanel’ video series exploring Chanel’s relationship with the world of film and cinema.
As a nod to the city, the set of the show featured a Chanel-ified iteration of the city’s iconic landmark, the Hollywood sign. Logomania was a key sigil of the collection, with Chanel emblazoned in every thinkable permutation: plastered all-over chiffon maxi dresses, bedazzled across the chest, tessellated on the sleeves, and again in movie-poster style typefaces on high-slit skirts. Itty bitty bags have also landed on Viard’s radar, as actually functional arm candy, but also as dangly belt charms.
For a season that has largely felt stranger than fiction, the references to Hollywood feel simultaneously apt and removed from reality. Seeing models emerge from behind the massive Chanel sign, almost as if they were actresses themselves coming out of the shadows of Hollywood—one can’t help but wonder if there’s more to Viard’s vision than meets the eye.