A ’90s campaign for Chanel, featuring Carla Bruni, Linda Evangelista and Naomi Campbell
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Chanel: an exercise in nostalgia for the craftsmanship and photography of the past

«Fashion is about clothes, models and photographers» says Chanel’s Creative Director, Virginie Viard, of the label’s nostalgic Spring/Summer 2022 presentation

Virginie Viard dives into the new

Chanel has staged its runway shows inside Paris’ historic Grand Palais since 2006, so much so that the venue has become almost synonymous with the French fashion house. The Grand Palais is currently undergoing a restoration and redevelopment project that is set to continue until 2024, and it seems fitting that Chanel has signed on as the sole private sponsor of the renovations; a move that will allow the brand to retain the exclusive right to use the nave of the structure for all its fashion shows moving forward.

Prior to the building work commencing, the Grand Palais’ iconic barrel-vaulted roof housed Chanel sets: from a fully-stocked supermarket to a futuristic space station, as well as a huge scale replica of the French capital’s most famous landmark, the Eiffel Tower. The brand’s final ready-to-wear presentation before the renovations took place was last October for Spring/Summer 2021 and featured Chanel’s take on the renowned ‘Hollywood’ sign.

This season marked Chanel’s second ready-to-wear show since work started on the Grand Palais, and Chanel’s Creative Director, Virginie Viard, opted to host the presentation in a temporary space by Les Invalides museum. According to Viard, this change in location allowed her to rethink how she approached Chanel Spring/Summer 2022: something she reflected by choosing to open the show with swimwear. «I had this idea of a podium of another era. And that’s why I chose swimwear. It needed an intimate setting, and would not have worked in the Grand Palais», explained Viard.

To that end, the opening of the show harked back to Karl Lagerfeld’s Chanel runway from Spring/Summer 1993, where he dressed models in ‘underwear-as-outerwear’, which was considered shocking to the industry almost thirty years ago. Fast forward to now, and Viard plays on this reference for Spring/Summer 2022, with models wearing monochromatic high-waisted bikinis and crocheted swimsuits styled with mesh skirts and multi-layered accessories. This fun and energetic opening certainly set the tone for the show, and it also worked in tandem with the attention to craftsmanship long associated with Chanel: with Viard working on the crocheted effects with French braiding company Bacus.

Chanel preserves the old

Ateliers spend hundreds of hours working on their craft, from sculpted pleats to intricate embroidery and handmade feather and flower trims. In the same way that Chanel has demonstrated its commitment to the Grand Palais by contributing to its renovation, the French luxury house has also recently gathered all its métiers d’art ateliers under one roof to preserve the work of the artisans behind Chanel.

The building is called Le 19M: ‘M’ for mains (hands), métier (craftsmanship) and mode (fashion), and ‘19’ because the building is in Paris’ nineteenth arrondissement. The nineteenth also represents Coco Chanel’s birthday (the nineteenth of August, 1883).

Located at Porte d’Aubervilliers on the edge of Paris, Le 19M was designed by French architect Rudy Ricciotti and spans five levels, including two basements. Bringing together Chanel’s arts and crafts in a single location, Ricciotti explains that the space was designed to «tell the story of the relationship between the technical and skillful complexity of the fashion trades». The building is also open to the public, with artist workshops and partnerships connecting the project with the outside world. 

Chanel has had a special relationship with its métiers d’art ateliers since the label began, when there were many more workshops in operation across France. Over the years, these ateliers have started to disappear thanks to changing fashions and a lack of workers trained in the complex skills required. Chanel recognized this worrying trend and began to acquire the ateliers it deemed essential to its dedication to couture, as well as inspiring its ready-to-wear collections. Lagerfeld reinforced this relationship during his long-standing tenure as creative director, with Viard (who Lagerfeld affectionately referred to as «my right arm […] and my left arm») taking the helm to serve as the direct liaison between the house and the métiers d’art since then.

The Chanel catwalk has recreated the fashion shows from the Eighties. Chanel SS22

Investing in the future while reminiscing about the past

Viard joined Chanel in 1987 as Lagerfeld’s intern before working her way up to the position of Studio Director. Her succession to Creative Director after Lagerfeld’s death in 2019 shows how integral Viard was in the day-to-day running of the Chanel brand; further highlighted by the fact that Lagerfeld brought Viard out to share the applause with him at the last two collections where he took a bow.

Spring/Summer 2022 allowed Viard the opportunity to recapture the emotion of the shows she attended when she first started working in the fashion industry: «I used to love the sound of flashbulbs going off at the shows in the Eighties», as she says in the press notes. Photography and fashion have long enjoyed a somewhat symbiotic relationship, and Viard tapped into this in this season’s collection, with the press notes also stating that «fashion is about clothes, models and photographers».

Using the theme of photography as a lens through which to revisit the past, Chanel’s Spring/Summer 2022 presentation saw models strut down an elevated runway flanked by photographers and flashbulbs, recreating the fashion shows of the Eighties. At the end of the raised catwalk, the Dutch photography duo Inez van Lamsweerde and Vinoodh Matadin played the parts of the classic fashion show photographers: taking pictures of the models as they struck a post for them at the end of the runway. Even the playful behavior of the models was a throwback to the supermodels of the Eighties, and the soundtrack to the show included a Christine and the Queens cover of George Michael’s hit Freedom! 90, which mirrored the nostalgic energy on stage.

In addition to the staging, the clothes and accessories all referenced the same era: from the tight-fitting monochrome looks that opened the show through to the boxy shoulder jackets and voluminous puffed sleeves and culminating in kaleidoscopic butterfly prints on floaty chiffons. 

If Chanel’s Spring/Summer 2022 collection was an exercise in nostalgia for the craftsmanship, photography and general joie de vivre of the past, then Viard presented an optimistic outlook for the future. Her show – along with the philanthropic actions of the label more broadly – are bringing the past into the present, the Chanel way.

Chanel and Virginie Viard

Chanel was founded by Gabrielle ‘Coco’ Chanel in 1910, making it one of the oldest French fashion houses still operating today. The Chanel label initially gained popularity with women thanks to the designer’s use of jersey fabric to create elegant yet easy-to-wear pieces, replacing the more opulent and constrictive designs favored at the time. Virginie Viard has been the Creative Director at Chanel since 2019, a position she took over from Karl Lagerfeld after his death

The writer does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article.

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check and buy on Prototipo Store
item collections in limited edition
crafted according to our editorial search

Hemp / made in Italy
Lampoon is working to restore
Hemp production in Italy
as hemp is the one and only
natural vegetal fiber sourceable in the country
for more info, please email us at [email protected]

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