Chanel Goes to the Opera in a Gleaming but Designer-Less Couture Collection

 A model presents a creation by the creative studio of fashion house Chanel as part of their Haute Couture Fall/Winter 2024-2025 collection show in Paris, France, June 25, 2024. (Reuters)
A model presents a creation by the creative studio of fashion house Chanel as part of their Haute Couture Fall/Winter 2024-2025 collection show in Paris, France, June 25, 2024. (Reuters)
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Chanel Goes to the Opera in a Gleaming but Designer-Less Couture Collection

 A model presents a creation by the creative studio of fashion house Chanel as part of their Haute Couture Fall/Winter 2024-2025 collection show in Paris, France, June 25, 2024. (Reuters)
A model presents a creation by the creative studio of fashion house Chanel as part of their Haute Couture Fall/Winter 2024-2025 collection show in Paris, France, June 25, 2024. (Reuters)

The show must go on, with aplomb. Chanel’s latest couture display Tuesday was a finely executed collection channeling theatricality.

Few Parisian fashion houses can fill the Paris Opera and gain applause from Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour and other luminaries without even having a designer. It's a testament to Chanel’s enduring power and its world-renowned atelier following Virginie Viard's abrupt exit on June 5.

Here are some highlights of the fall couture displays:

Chanel's opulence

Guests clutching Chanel opera glasses got happily lost as they explored marble staircases to find a stage in the Opera’s outer corridors, filled with red velvet opera boxes designed by French movie director Christophe Honoré. The stage was set with silhouettes evoking the opera and its heyday: dramatic capes, puffed sleeves and richly embroidered pieces.

The designs’ gleam rivaled only that of the sumptuous 19th-century atrium itself, with shimmering buttons and brilliant threads reflecting the light.

There were moments of drama, with guests reaching for their cameras to capture a black gown with puff sleeves whose feathers, beading and ribbons gleamed provocatively.

This season, there is a welcome move to less accessorizing, a departure from the hallmark of Viard. The focus was on the garments, highlighting the craftsmanship and luxurious materials. Feathers, tassels, embroidered flowers, precious braids, lacquered jersey, supple tweeds, silky velvet, illusion tulle, taffeta and duchesse satin adorned looks befitting the venue.

Although the necklines were a standout feature, the collection as a whole had a slightly disparate feel that sometimes seemed to lack a singular aesthetic anchor.

Chanel paid tribute to the ateliers of the "petites mains," or the dozens of artisans who work in six ateliers a stone’s throw from the venue.

Without Viard

Viard abruptly left after over 30 years with the brand. The overnight announcement of her departure was highly unorthodox, coming just weeks before the couture show.

Viard succeeded Karl Lagerfeld upon his death in 2019 and was his closest collaborator for almost 30 years. She had overseen record sales for Chanel, reaching a reported $19.7 billion last year. Ready-to-wear sales reportedly increased 23% during her tenure.

Yet in the fickle world of fashion, strong sales are not always enough. Viard’s tenure was dogged by controversy, most recently with criticism of her collections, including a poorly received mid-season show in Marseille. Viard faced backlash for runway shows that critics said lacked the grandiose flair defining Lagerfeld’s era, and she often received critiques for underwhelming design choices.

Though her appointment was initially seen as temporary, she was only the third creative director in Chanel’s over 100-year history after Lagerfeld and, of course, legendary founder Gabrielle "Coco" Chanel.

The fashion world speculates on her successor. Names like Hedi Slimane, Marine Serre and Simon Porte Jacquemus circulate, suggesting potential shifts in Chanel’s creative direction.

Mabille’s toast to glamour

Bubbles are never far away from the effervescent couturier Alexis Mabille.

Unfurling, undressing, and plays on corsetry were on the menu this season, starting with an opening number featuring a gleaming bustier that resembled an opening flower. The intimacy and ritual of getting dressed is a theme that pervades Mabille's work.

Varied looks sometimes surprised guests, such as a Bob Mackie-style feathered headdress that out-Cher-ed Cher. The extravagant piece had an almost equestrian flourish and was a real feat of couture execution, showcasing Mabille’s flair for Hollywood-inspired glamour.

A golden bullet creation, and a gleaming metallic power cape with an armor-like bustier, gave the collection a lot of attitude, if not always coherence. Mabille’s collections often embrace a wide array of silhouettes and themes, sometimes leading to a lack of unified narrative. However, the diversity is also part of his charm.



LVMH Shares Drop after Missing Second-quarter Estimates

A man walks past a shop of fashion house Dior in Paris, France, April 15, 2024. REUTERS/Manon Cruz/File Photo Purchase Licensing Rights
A man walks past a shop of fashion house Dior in Paris, France, April 15, 2024. REUTERS/Manon Cruz/File Photo Purchase Licensing Rights
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LVMH Shares Drop after Missing Second-quarter Estimates

A man walks past a shop of fashion house Dior in Paris, France, April 15, 2024. REUTERS/Manon Cruz/File Photo Purchase Licensing Rights
A man walks past a shop of fashion house Dior in Paris, France, April 15, 2024. REUTERS/Manon Cruz/File Photo Purchase Licensing Rights

Shares in LVMH (LVMH.PA) fell as much as 6.5% in early Wednesday trade and were on track for their biggest one-day drop since October 2023 after second-quarter sales growth at the French luxury goods giant missed analysts' consensus estimate.

The world's biggest luxury group said late Tuesday its quarterly sales rose 1% year on year to 20.98 billion euros ($22.76 billion), undershooting the 21.6 billion expected on average by analysts polled by LSEG.

At 1000 GMT, LVMH's shares were down 4.5%.

The earnings miss weighed on other luxury stocks, with Hermes (HRMS.PA), down around 2% and Kering (PRTP.PA), off 3%.

Kering is scheduled to report second-quarter sales after the market close and Hermes reports on Thursday, Reuters reported.

Jittery investors are looking for evidence that the industry will pick up from a recent slowdown, as inflation-hit shoppers hold off from splashing out on designer fashion.

JPMorgan analyst Chiara Battistini cut full year profit forecasts by 2-3% for the group, citing softer trends at LVMH's fashion and leather goods division, home to Louis Vuitton and Dior.

"The soft print is likely to add to ongoing investors’ concerns on the sector more broadly in our view, confirming that even best-in-class players like LVMH cannot be immune from the challenging backdrop," said Battistini in a note to clients.

The weakness of the yen, which has prompted a flood of Chinese shoppers to Japan seeking bargains on luxury goods, added pressure to margins, another source of concern.

Equita cut 2024 sales estimates for LVMH by 3% - attributing 1% to currency fluctuations - and lowered its second half organic sales estimate to 7% growth from 10% growth previously.

The lack of visibility for the second half beyond the easing of comparative figures - as the Chinese post-pandemic lockdown bounce tapered off a year ago - is unlikely to improve investor sentiment to the luxury sector, Citi analyst Thomas Chauvet said in an email to clients.

"No miracle with the luxury bellwether; sector likely to remain out of favour," he wrote.

Jefferies analysts said the miss came as investors eye Chinese shoppers for their potential to "resume their pre-COVID role as the locomotive of industry growth and debate when Western consumers will have fully digested their COVID overspend".

LVMH shares have been volatile since the luxury slowdown emerged, and are down about 20% over the past year, with middle-class shoppers in China, the world's No. 2 economy, a key focus as they rein in purchases at home amid a property slump and job insecurity.

LVMH offered some reassurance, with finance chief Jean-Jacques Guiony telling analysts during a call on Tuesday that Chinese customers were "holding up quite well," while business with US and European customers was "slightly better".