Suzy Menkes

#SuzyCouture: Chanel - Small Surprises Among The Classics

The Paris Grand Palais was transformed into a giant library for the first Chanel couture show without Karl Lagerfeld at the helm
Foto: Getty Images
Chanel autumn/winter 2019 couture saw the Paris Grand Palais transformed into a giant library.
Nobody knows what will happen to Karl Lagerfeld’s symphony of books - old, new and played out in various languages and different locations.
But in the first Chanel couture show without the late designer at the helm, a library marked the handover to his long term assistant Virginie Viard.
Foto: Getty Images
Virginie Viard taking a bow at the end of the first Chanel collection without Karl Lagerfeld at the helm.
A vast circle of books like an ancient library cocooned the Grand Palais, Chanel’s favoured show space. And even if the books way up by the glass dome were fakes, like a stage set, there were enough copies from Karl’s gallery to suggest a background similar to his own studio on the Paris Left Bank.
Foto: GORUNWAY
This winter collection included floor-sweeping coats.
"It is a mix of books in Coco Chanel’s apartment and Galignani,” said Virginie, referring to a favoured Paris bookshop - not least for Karl.
Foto: GORUNWAY
Chanel remains a French classic.
The designer was surrounded by 'team Karl' as it was known until his death in February. They cheered their new leader on enthusiastically.
The main thing about the show was that it was reduced to its essence: beautifully made and perfectly cut tailoring with more bright colour than usual.
Foto: Getty Images
The collection was beautifully made with perfectly cut tailoring.
To underscore the concept of bookish young women - even though that idea has been used persistently by Gucci - the models seem to have stepped down from their tidy, lady-like shoes into footwear with a more slouchy effect.
Wisely, for a winter couture season, the designer had plenty of coats - starting with a floor-sweeping length with a line of buttons, mostly single, straight as a die from neck to knees.
Foto: Getty Images
Virginie put in drops of bold colour such as pink.
Here, as elsewhere, Virginie put in drops of bold colour - red, pink, orange. A green tweed all-in-one suggested a sporty influence that never quite materialised - although the look came again with a slim line of check.
For all Chanel’s global reach and the twists and turns in Karl’s tenure, this brand could only be described as a French classic. Virginie held to those tenets, adding tiny surprises with a frilly ruffle and wrists, or a cut away at the shoulders.
Foto: GORUNWAY
There were tiny surprises among the classics, such as a frilly ruffle.
There was nothing timid about this collection. It had the familiar Chanel trope but a small change to the overall look by offering a flowing curve to a jacket and few accessories - apart from the eyeglasses. Perhaps they will join skiing and beach clothes recently introduced in ready-to-wear.
Foto: GORUNWAY
There were few accessories apart from eyeglasses.
There was, of course, no madness - which would have felt inappropriate at not even six months since Karl passed away. So the show was quiet and polite - just like in a library.
Foto: GETTY IMAGES
Footwear at Chanel autumn/winter couture 2019.
The evening clothes had a covered up elegance - say a velvet coat or the final tiered pastel coat, its layers decorated with feathers.
At the ending, to warm applause, Virginie appeared in a black T-shirt and patterned Chanel marked trousers with matching boots. She stood on the first floor up the mighty swoop of this ‘library’. That seemed like a symbol of a designer on the right path - but with a long way to climb up to a fresh, new world.