Keeping Up With Karl: Virginie Viard’s debut collection for Chanel Cruise 2020 wins hearts

by Shubhi Srivastava

08-May-2019  |  8 mins read

Chanel Cruise 2020

Picking up from where legacy designers of the ranks of Coco Chanel and Karl Lagerfeld left off, is a tremendous responsibility, and Virginie Viard gave justice to the powerful predecessor duo as she moulded her own design sense into the signature Chanel design for the Cruise 2020 collection. The collection celebrated the marriage of comfort and luxury, sailing over the easy waters of the vacation lifestyle the season aims to cater to, while projecting the new turn the legacy fashion house is set to take.

The show marked Viard’s first runway show after she took the creative helm of Chanel after the demise of Karl Lagerfeld, who had served the fashion house for the past 32 years. Viard ushered in the post-Lagerfeld era of Chanel at the Grand Palais that was transformed to resemble Beaux-Arts style train station to uphold the “promise of an adventure,” as per the brand.

Grand Palais Converted to Beaux-Arts Train Station
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In longline poplins, bows and a punch of colour every now and then, the models walked beside the railway tracks that mimicked a turn-of-the-century railway station. Seated beneath the soaring steel-and-glass roof under wooden signs that spoke of the many places Chanel’s legacy has touched, the guests noticed a touch of femininity that graced the collection, complementing the brand’s characteristic gender-fluid silhouettes that Chanel and Lagerfeld themselves explored to change the norms of female dressing for decades.

The location served as a reminder of what the house has been, while the mostly blank invitation cards and the minimalist theme was synonymous to a clean slate Viard is going to start with. “Like the promise of adventure, the main hall is traversed by railroad tracks over which one can just picture trains setting off for one of the destinations posted over kiosks and benches,” the firm stated in a release about the collection. “These destinations include Venice, Saint Tropez, Athens, Byzance, Bombay, Edinburgh and Rome, which appear like so many windows on the world, reprising the settings, real or imagined, of earlier Chanel collections,” they added.

Gabardine Gender Neutral Suit Sets
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Poplin and Gabardine compartment jackets coordinated with various silhouettes in midi-lengths opened the show, playing on the gender-fluid Chanel design with the added flair of ruffles and bows on the front bodice followed by a series of boxy fit jackets with repeated bellow pockets constricted by chain-mail waist tie-ups belts.

Bigger bows rested on the fronts of the smart tweed suiting sets and dresses that followed next, paired against a range of bold new Chanel bags right from the classic Chanel clutch in popping neons to newly introduced sporty double harness bags. An ode to the 80s was also on the memo as neon collared cardigans, blazers and jackets were paired against logo-ed Chanel leggings. Tweeds and checks were utilized over majority of the jackets, with purple, red and blue as the top hues.

Easy cover-ups slammed with the Chanel logo and letters all over the fabric were layered over floral detail jumpsuits, faux leather separates until a line of heather jackets and shorts took center stage. Faux leather jackets with value addition of standing lapel panels and double-breasted half jackets were also a part of this segment. The bottomwear, on the other hand, included varying cuts: tweed knickerbockers in longer lengths, paper-thin pants and drawstring-waist pants in leather, with additions such as knee splits and finally going on to faddy baggy jeans.

The collection took a turn as it proceeded towards the end, championing fabric manipulation in a considerably lighter colour palette. Easy utilitarian separates and jumpsuits with gathered bows in muted tones of white, pastel blue, lilac and water colour compartmentalized print constituted this section. Embellished with their traditional metal buttons, Chanel’s trademark purple jackets saw faux fur replacing tweed.

Pastels & Whites
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Next in line were tiered chiffon strappy dresses in moody florals, gradation heather and cosmic prints, that later led to Viard’s finale for the collection- an assortment of high fashion dresses that definitely checked all markers that a luxe holiday entails. The lace edit of the collection included dresses in white and black, with scoop next details adorned with bows and bandeau bodices. The collection ended remembering Lagerfeld as three dresses graced the ramps highlighting Lagerfeld’s signature starched white collar. The play of the collar’s formality contrasted cleverly against the breezy, playful silk and tulle with appliqued rhodoid flowers on the black and white dresses, while complementing the bold yet sensual design of the show stopper dress with its golden chained seams.

Finale Dresses by Viard
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On-lookers nodded in unison as the show unfurled at the Palais, seeing the combination of Viard’s clever design sensibility and her technical know-how. The latter was revealed in details such as the carefully layered shells worn beneath the coordinated sets, in pale leather threaded with an open-work lattice of faggoting, and in the laser cut evening dresses embroidered with petals and flowers.

Chanel Cruise 2020 Bags

“The fact that it’s going back into the hands of a woman is so unbelievably exciting,” said Kiera Knightley, who is one of the biggest supporters of the brand, “Virginie worked alongside Karl for more than 30 years, so she understands the fabric of the house so well, but is now bringing that very feminine, cool touch. Looking at that collection, I was like, ‘Yes, I want to wear all of that, thank you very much.”

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Dubbed as “Karl’s secret weapon,” Viard entered the brand just four years after Lagerfeld’s appointment as the creative director as an intern in haute-couture embroidery in 1987. Post that venture, Viard joined Lagerfeld at Chloé in 1992, who was the head designer there. She returned to work at Chanel after working for five years at Chloé where she was appointment as the creative director who would fill in the shoes of Lagerfeld and with Chanel’s Cruise 2020, she finally took a bow on the Parisian grounds, visibly moved as the glorious baton of the legacy fashion house was finally passed on to her.

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