“Humor” is not a word often associated with Chanel, but perhaps it should be. Throughout his 30-plus-year tenure at the French house, Karl Lagerfeld imbued his designs with plenty of tongue-in-cheek takes on fashion. I mean, clear vinyl Chanel rain boots? A handbag in the shape of a milk carton, or a beach ball? What else could those be, other than nod-wink gestures at the forms luxury can take?
Virginie Viard, Lagerfeld’s protégé, has so far taken a slightly more buttoned-up approach to design in her time as creative director of Chanel—until the spring 2023 couture collection, which debuted in Paris on Tuesday. Viard used Gabrielle Chanel’s apartment at 31, rue Cambon as a jumping-off point for inspiration, which has been well-trod ground for both Viard and the house.
Instead of a more serious and literal take on the décor, though, Viard opted for a looser, more fun route—and as a result, Coco’s collection of lions, stags, and camels found their way across Viard’s designs. There were corgi faces in sequin across tweed jackets and leaping bunnies embroidered on delicate sheer dresses, along with Chanel’s classic camellia crafted in layers of tulle, plus other fields of spring-ready florals dancing across maxi dresses and embellished into suit panels.
The styling of the collection was a nod toward majorettes, those baton-twirling stars of parades: Think top hats, bow ties, and laced-up boots in gold or white with that famous Chanel two-tone toe cap. Outerwear, whether a tweed coat or a satin cape, came in exaggerated shapes that tented around the body, and tweed shorts which ballooned out from the hip.
Artist collaborations, it seems, are particularly hot this couture season: For her part, Viard tapped French multimedia artist Xavier Veilhan to create the set, which he packed with a menagerie of wood, cardboard, and paper animals. Some of these creatures held models inside, opening at just the right moment to reveal the next look hitting the runway—most spectacularly, when a large elephant was rolled out carrying Anna Ewers as the finale bride, her veil dotted with dozens of embroidered swallows.
“I like it when the marvelous bursts forth and the course of events is interrupted,” Viard said in the show notes.
At its core, the Chanel spring 2023 haute couture collection featured silhouettes which have become signature to Viard’s time there—floor-sweeping coats, drop-waisted gowns, exaggerated shoulder shapes. It was a breath of fresh air to see the designer have a little fun.
And someone, somewhere, is undoubtedly beside themselves with excitement at the prospect of memorializing their beloved corgi in a piece of haute couture.