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Camellias Tower over Chanel’s Guests for Show Capping Paris

Camellias Tower over Chanel’s Guests for Show Capping Paris

Tuesday, 7 March, 2023 - 17:00
Models present creations from the Fall/Winter 2023/24 Womenswear collection by French designer Virginie Viard for Chanel Fashion House during the Paris Fashion Week, in Paris, France, 07 March 2023. (EPA)

Colossal camellias served as the ready-to-wear altarpiece for Chanel’s sparkling, bloom-inspired fall display.

Meanwhile, Miuccia Prada’s baby sister brand Miu Miu — another headline show on Paris Fashion Week’s last day – presented a study in off-kilter creativity.

Here are some highlights of the fall-winter 2023-24 collections:

Chanel’s camellia

It was the flower that launched a thousand designs. Legend has it that the camellia first became Gabrielle "Coco" Chanel’s obsession in 1913 when she pinned one to her belt — seduced, the house said, by its "simplicity, shape, purity and vitality." Over a century later, the winter flower is still center stage.

"Camellia is more than a theme, it’s an eternal code," creative director Virginie Viard said. "I like its softness and its strength."

As ever, there was a restraint in Viard’s design aesthetic, for instance, in the use of a limited palette of whites, shadowy blacks and shades of pink. The camellia, too, was handled strictly, adorning pockets, buttons and jackets, prints or leather shoes.

But the ubiquitous sparkle of sequins and in plays in shape — slits in gowns, asymmetrical coats and swooshes of diagonal fabric on skirts — gave the collection motion.

Viard also dabbled in men’s styles with menswear jackets and dandy-like British dressing gowns.

"The faded colors, the dusky pink, the crafted pieces, the touches of 1960s and 70s, a certain English vibe, the comfortable enveloping coats, the authentic materials, make the collections more real, and more charming too," Viard said.

Penelope Cruz

Penelope Cruz revisited her memories of late designer Karl Lagerfeld following Chanel’s show.

At a 1999 Vanity Fair party, Lagerfeld and current designer Viard were discussing the actress becoming a Chanel ambassador. It was meant to be a secret.

"Karl and Virginie were speaking in French and they thought I was not understanding," Cruz said. "And they were talking about me becoming an ambassador to the brand. But I understood everything, pretending that I was not, and I was looking to a different place," Cruz said. "They gave me the great ‘news’ quite soon after that!"

Cruz spoke with love for the house, which feels "like a family," whose designs and magic had made her dream, even as a young girl growing up in Spain.

The Oscar winner also spoke of Viard’s tongue-in-cheek style. Tuesday’s fall-winter set was based on the 1966 movie "Whatever happened to Polly Magoo?" a satirical French mockumentary about runway hyperbole and the excesses of the fashion industry.

"But of course, Virginie does have a sense of humor," Cruz said. "You have to be brave to mix some materials and colors. It was fun."

Miu Miu’s disruptions

Nearly 50 screens lined the walls and columns of the Palais d’Iena beaming out scenes of the set construction, beside white tube lighting and a white corrugated iron backdrop.

The program notes came with a text by Korean artist Geumhyung Jeong: "There is a codependency, but in the end, machines do not need us. We need them."

The link to the decor’s theme of the off-kilter fashion display was unclear to some — but Prada seemed to want to challenge the set rules of dressing.

Knickers poked out from under a brown leather minidress, cut so short they were no longer truly underwear. The appliques on one light silk umber gown were so heavy they structured the dress rather than vice-versa. Three-dimensional flowers adorning a top were intentionally obscured by a sheer green cardigan.

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