After years of epic Chanel show spectacles in the vast Grand Palais, now closed for renovations, the brand’s artistic director Virginie Viard felt that the time was right for a totally different ambiance to showcase her playful Coco Neige collection. “I wanted to show in a small place, a club,” Viard explained during a Zoom preview. “I don’t like big rave venues; I prefer that kind of place that is more intimate. Karl was always telling me about the shows he staged in the ’70s with the girls getting dressed on their own in a restaurant in Paris,” she added.
Viard lighted on the legendary Left Bank nightclub Chez Castel that has been the epitome of cool for generations of party animals since Jean Castel first opened the club in the 1960s. Cozily arranged on different levels in an 18th-century building or two, the dimly lit boîte on the rue Princesse attracted the likes of Françoise Hardy, Françoise Sagan, Amanda Lear, and Mick Jagger at the time, and has never gone out of fashion. “I love Castel because it’s like a house and very English,” said Viard who was amused by the idea of the Chanel girls coming down the club’s famously narrow stairs in their giant après-ski coats and then leaving them in the coatroom to reveal the skimpy little chiffon numbers underneath. Even Viard’s shaggy Moon Boots turn out to be double layered so that the voluminous shearling can be removed to reveal a sleeker boot beneath.
Viard played with the marriage of sturdy tweed and fragile chiffon throughout the collection, inspired, as she explained, by the legendary style of the late Stella Tennant, a Chanel icon for so many years, and a woman who embodied the chic of a certain school of aristocratic negligence as she shrugged a hefty tweed coat, built for the Scottish moors, over a delicate evening dress.
The collection is infused with “ski spirit”: Norwegian sweaters, quilted salopettes, voluminous puffers, and ski pants worn with short cropped jackets that Viard has styled either with the midriff bared or with the nightclub-friendly flowered black lace camisoles that also crop up under fluid knit suits or paired with a 2/55 quilted satin miniskirt. There are midi-length crochet skirts, and suits shined with panels of sequin fabric and layers of fringing at the cuff.
Viard was also inspired by Chanel’s fall 1994 collection, which featured conspicuously fake-fur suits and coats, and reimagined the pieces in black, white, and hot pink shearling. She said that she had been watching Jean-Baptiste Mondino’s iconic 1985 video for Bryan Ferry’s “Slave to Love,” featuring the fabulous models Christine Bergström, Marpessa Hennink, and Laurence Treil—she even cast the young French model Lola for her resemblance to the wonderful, wide-mouthed Treil—and her last look, a gold trench coat, styled with a felt fedora (with shearling flaps), might have stepped right out of it.
The soundtrack, mixed by Michel Gaubert, also featured Diana Ross’s “Do You Know Where You’re Going To?—a song that Viard considers singularly apt for this moment. “Your own pajama party?” posited Viard as an answer. “As we can’t do anything else!”