An air of surrealism enveloped Chanel’s Spring Couture show Tuesday as celebrity guests including Naomi Campbell and Kendrick Lamar faced a navigational challenge: walking past a towering pair of open metal scissors. That symbolic gateway set the stage for a theater-in-the-round showcase in Paris.
The show's spotlight was on a lowly yet groundbreaking fashion element: the button. The motif featured in a short film and as a giant sculpture descending from the ceiling, a feat of fashion theatrics provoking gasps of delight from camera-wielding guests and a nod of approval from equally spectacular movie director Baz Luhrmann.
Here are some highlights of Tuesday’s spring couture shows:
BUTTONS AND BALLET The button is a humble icon, but it was not always so. Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel was credited with revolutionizing fashion with the women’s suit, and the button on its front was vital, so the house says, to help women “rid themselves of everything that had prevented them from moving freely.”
In Tuesday's frothy and sparkling couture display, showcased beneath the lofty ceilings of the Grand Palais Ephemere, creative director Virginie Viard used the button as a jewel. It infused a collection that celebrated the freedom of movement in the world of ballet and dance.
Viard used the button-jewels as a spice for the drama of the ballet stage, scattering them across contrasting and often segmented silhouettes. A striking tulle ruff neck adornment opened the show, paving the way for pieces like an A-line black mini dress that captured the essence of a ballerina silhouette. The collection’s layering over ballet leotards and tights elegantly glided down the runway.
The house was keenly aware of its history: 2024 marks a century since Coco Chanel first ventured into ballet design. This collection’s pink and white aquarelle palette evoked the vibrant style of the Ballets Russes as envisioned by Léon Bakst and Sergei Diaghilev.
“Dance, it’s an essential theme at Chanel. We are closely linked with its institutions, choreographers and dancers, and we often create costumes for the ballet,” Viard said.
The gowns echoed the tight bodices and billowing tulle skirts characteristic of the Ballets Russes. The collection also featured transparent short straight skirts, long dresses and jumpsuits, all with intricate embroideries depicting draperies, little bows, illusion tulle pockets and lace belts, further weaving the ballet theme into the fabric of each garment.
Still, Viard’s collections continue to lack the sense of cohesion — the dominance of one overarching aesthetic each season — that was associated with her predecessor Karl Lagerfeld, who died in 2019.
But the audience who cheered and applauded didn’t seem to mind.
CHANEL’S CINEMATIC ODE In a dazzling prelude, a fashion film starring Margaret Qualley, the actress and daughter of Andie MacDowell, illuminated the runway's curtained walls with a whimsical narrative directed by Dave Free. The plot, at times reminiscent of Barbra Streisand’s iconic turn in “Funny Girl,” recounts a tale of a beautiful young woman on a quest for a missing button — a journey that leads her to the heart of Paris.
Style icon Naomi Campbell appears as a serendipitous savior, providing Qualley with a ticket to the fashion capital. The climax unfolds on the famed Rue Cambon, where Qualley meets a modern-day Coco Chanel portrayed by the enigmatic Anna Mouglalis. Mouglalis, with her instantly recognizable baritone, is no stranger to the role, having previously brought the legendary designer to life on screen.
The cinematic adventure set the stage for the real spectacle. As the film concluded, Qualley seamlessly transitioned from screen to stage, opening the couture show.
MABILLE'S CLASSIC GLAMOUR In a blaze of pearl, gold and obsidian, Alexis Mabille transported guests to the realm of old-school couture in the halls of Christie's auction house. The extravagant display featured satin sheens showcasing Mabille’s signature styles.
Giant white bows cascaded, mingling effortlessly with fabric sashes, swooshing around the models and accentuating the sumptuous textures of silk fabrics that invigorated the display.
Mabille’s focus on archetypical couture was showcased in his highly crafted garments. The attention to detail was clear, from the scalloped bustier, reminiscent of seashell waves, to the ruffles of fabric around the bust, which evoked imagery of a cloud and the intricate beauty of coral.
In a world that often seeks the innovative, Mabille reminds us of the enduring allure of classic couture.