Hits and misses at Chanel's spring collection

Creations (left, top and above) by Virginie Viard for Chanel at the Grand Palais on Tuesday.
Creations (above) by Virginie Viard for Chanel at the Grand Palais on Tuesday.PHOTOS: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, EPA-EFE, REUTERS

PARIS • Karl Lagerfeld made it look easy. His version of Chanel, typically presented in runway shows against an elaborately designed mise-en-scene, was an avalanche of ideas.

The models, sometimes almost 100 of them, marched along so fast that it was a challenge to the senses just trying to sort it all out.

Lagerfeld was a master at making you curious. Popular culture flowed through the Chanel atelier, infusing the collection with urgency - or at least awareness.

After his death earlier this year, his former right hand Virginie Viard stepped up as creative director.

On Tuesday, at the Grand Palais, she presented her spring 2020 runway collection.

The new Chanel is less frenetic. The music was rather stodgy instead of energising. Instead of a set that includes an iceberg or a rocket, hers depicted the rooftops of Paris.

The biggest jolt to the system was when a civilian dashed from the audience to join the models' final walk.

But, first, to the collection.

The star of it all was, as always, the classic Chanel jacket. It is elongated. The shoulders have got broader. It has been adorned.

There are also ruffly skirts and balloon-sleeved blouses. There were hats because there are almost always hats at Chanel. And there were oddities such as tight black bloomers paired with sparkly tops.

Occasionally, something quite lovely would appear, like a long black skirt with a white blouse whose fabric seemed to swirl around the body.

A red plaid jacket and skirt looked especially cool and enticing on the runway, but when you gave it more thought, you realise that what made the combination seem so modern was not the cut or the fabric, but rather the model who was wearing it.

Lagerfeld's Chanel was fashion as improvisation: "Yes, and ..."

Viard's was a collection defined by "maybe".

One longed for something luscious to evoke desire or something outrageous to set your tongue wagging.

The clothes were wearable, but not particularly memorable. If this were just another fashion brand, one without the history, stature and a passionate customer base, this blah aesthetic would not nearly be enough.

But at Chanel, it very well might be - at least for a while. It will take a bit of time before the customer relationship with Chanel fades from obsessive to a shrug.

As the models paraded one last time around the rooftop set, a woman in a black-and-white houndstooth suit and black hat dashed from the bleachers and clambered onto the runway. She adjusted her jacket, glanced over her shoulder and strutted along with the models.

She was identified by Women's Wear Daily as Marie Benoliel, a comedienne whose YouTube channel includes a video of her crashing an Etam runway show.

In a statement, Chanel confirmed that the stunt was not planned.

The gatecrasher was escorted to the exit - after an encounter with model Gigi Hadid.

While security should do a post-mortem to figure out how someone was able to leap from the audience onto the runway, Chanel should be worried about how easily the gatecrasher's checked suit and hat blended into the new collection. They did not look a wit out of place.

That is not a maybe - that is definitely not good.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 03, 2019, with the headline 'Hits and misses at Chanel's spring collection'. Print Edition | Subscribe