Sky High

By Roxanne Robinson


Memories of Paris from days gone by influenced the collections at Chanel and Louis Vuitton

CHANEL

Since taking the reins at Chanel since the great Karl Lagerfeld passed away in February of this year, Virginie Viard has gracefully stepped into some big shoes. She helmed the Resort and Haute Couture shows (which, in theory, with the planning that goes into collections, might have had a bit of Karl’s ideas in them) for the house but Spring 2020 was her first ready-to-wear.

The Grand Palais still bore a signature set beyond most runway spectacles, but the Parisian rooftop scene was a bit subdued compared to some in recent memory. Show notes were a simple folded poster versus expensive-to-produce, practically frameable dossiers that usually are in place at the seats (also maybe a green move?) A graphic and poetic-looking recreation of the Parisian skyline made perfect sense for a collection that was paired down. In a good way. 

Nothing could compare to the magic of Karl Lagerfeld’s fantastical show themes, complete with quirky accessories, almost all on offer for sale as part of the collection. But while purses shaped like milk cartons, bistro plates, rockets and Chanel airways carry-ons and the like were all awe-gasping full of charm, these motifs could have easily read cheesy in less capable hands than Karl and Chanel. From the looks of it, Viard is in agreement that the Chanel woman could do without all of that.

The mood of the show to the naked eye was a quaint take on mod – maybe bourgeoisie French girls who slummed with the Beatniks on occasion? According to Viard, more like a silhouette of Jean Seberg in a Nouvelle Vague film directed by Jean-Luc Godard, Francois Truffaut or Louis Malle, for example. A Sixties groovy-slash-silly soundtrack accentuated the tweed mini-dresses and short shorts often worn with tights, and full tulip-shaped kick skirts worn with very Chanel-esque white shirts, brimmed boaters with turned up edges and red flower accents worn with black patent leather flats with a chunky heel. Vinyl trim on swing coats, black knickers worn under a chiffon skirt, a massive oversized neon orange sweater were novel additions. A windowpane check looked fresh, especially worn by Cardi B., who sat front row.

The singer had a bird’s eye view of the runway crasher who leapt onto the stage during the final walk, eventually making her way to the finale platform where Viard was taking her bow only to be “model-handled” off the platform by Gigi Hadid, fiercely protecting Chanel’s interest. That’s all The Impression would like to say about that. Otherwise it’s akin to rewarding bad behavior much like the POTUS gets when media react to his ridiculous Twitter feed.

Viard has wisely built herself a nice cocoon to shield herself from too much of the drama and critical lens that comes with her position. She transcended above it, or to put it in the words of  Carole King and sung by The Drifters, “On the roof, it’s peaceful as can be. And there, the world below can’t bother me.” 

Louis Vuitton

The first thing one noticed about the Louis Vuitton show this season was the about-face of the set in the Carrousel du Louvre as compared to last season, when women’s creative director Nicholas Ghesquière recreated the Centre Pompidou (made by architects Richard Rogers, Renzo Piano and Gianfranco Franchini). It was now an empty wooden box – wood sourced from France that will be repurposed after the show. The back wall would illuminate as the show opened to a music video of Sophie, a Scottish singer, singing a new cover of her song “It’s Okay to Cry.” Digital video, so far green, was a perfect way to customize the set.

From the shoulder blades up, the coquettish transgender female singer projected two stories-high on the screen sang the song throughout the show with images of the sky behind her in all its forms – clouds, sunrises, sunsets, rainbows, rain and even meteor showers – as models walked through a small door placed on the screen at her throat. What this had to do with the collection that was influenced by the Belle Epoque by way of the late Sixties/early Seventies, who knew. Unless that was a loose link to dandyism Ghesqiuère referenced in a prepared interview? Maybe he just likes her music.

The designer hoped to revisit the exciting time in Paris when all was changing, mainly due to the World’s Fairs that brought the Eiffel Tower and Grand Palais, among other things, and ushered in the notion of French elegance. He challenged himself by examining what is old-fashioned and in revisiting these clothes, gave them a modern sportswear twist. After all, that era of the Gibson Girl was before Madame Chanel freed the female diaphragm. That restrictive look doesn’t really fly too much out of the theater or bedroom these days.

The dandyism was felt in the loud-patterned blazers and waist coats often adorned with a cattleya orchid motif and a few vests which channeled Rhoda Morgenstern (and were given Seventies crimped hair treatments.) Art Nouveau designs like those found on stained glass and posters of the era became prints on smart dresses worthy of Carol Brady. Sarah Bernhardt hair on a few models proposed the upswept hair look for today. Another era, the Eighties and Nineties were recalled as a stack of videos on a simple LV monogram tote.

In examining all these eras to determine what is old-fashioned or not, the most modern came with a set of dresses for the finale, which proposed a full tulip-shape that especially in white, resembled the clouds that Ghesquière’s creative imagination floats gently on.