Supermodels came bounding down the high, raised runways exuding joie de vivre as they twirled and vamped for the photographers who had jostled for prime position, not only at the end of the runway, but all along its length, as listeners to the podcast In Vogue: The 1990s will discover. (Front-row seats were still prized in fashion’s hierarchy, but they generally provided a great view of the back of a photographer’s or a supermodel’s nostrils.)
While the Grand Palais, site of so many elaborately staged Chanel spectaculars, is undergoing a massive renovation (generously underwritten by Chanel), this collection was presented in a temporary space set up in the shadow of Les Invalides, allowing Viard to relive the memories of the shows she attended as a fashion novice.
At the end of the elevated runway, for example, the photography duo Inez van Lamsweerde and Vinoodh Matadin played old-school show photographers, snapping models who stopped to pose and preen for them and seemed to be having the time of their lives, flashing smiles and flicking hair rather than assuming the habitual look of sulky disdain. Inez and Vinoodh also created the playful videos (shown in an anteroom before entering the show space) depicting Chanel’s model cabal, including Lily-Rose Depp.
The show also began with a black-and-white sequence of briefs, swimsuits, and sports bras, occasionally veiled in spangled black net pants or shown with above-the-knee skirts, ala Karl Lagerfeld, who shocked the fashion world by wearing Chanel-branded underwear as outerwear on the runway for spring 1993. During an accessories fitting a few days before the show, Viard highlighted the crocheted effects she had worked on with braid company Bacus, as well as the twist on the bright spring pastel tweed suits—think Chanel-clad Naomi, Linda, and Carla, shot by Steven Meisel for Vogue, March 1994—that she had given the twist of a longer skirt or jacket flap in back, suggesting a traditional tailcoat.
This season, her reimagined denim offerings included a pretty, summery deck-chair ticking stripe cut into stiff little 1960s-looking dresses with bold bands of black sequins, creating the illusion of a classic Chanel cardigan suit, and charcoal denim wafted with a butterfly print. Those butterfly wings were amplified as prints on swaying chiffon pieces that swirled as the girls twirled, providing another charming throwback to a moment that celebrated the joy the fashion flock is feeling in a season of cautious reemergence and optimism.