Our national interest in emulating French style has heightened in recent months. British women have always been enamoured with the way our Parisian neighbours manage to appear consistently, effortlessly chic, but the arrival of television hits - Call My Agent, Lupin, Torn, et tout - during another unromantic lockdown has fuelled the wardrobe fantasy further.
At Tuesday’s Chanel cruise fashion show, a digital event, creative director Virginie Viard offered a direct route to French style; go monochrome. Almost every model who walked through the quarry white backdrop of the Carrières de Lumières did so in a black and white outfit, mostly paired with a fringed bob and kohl-smudged eyes - a timeless effect.
The collection was inspired by founding designer Gabrielle ‘Coco’ Chanel’s friendship with the creative icon Jean Cocteau. Notes between the two were shared on Viard’s moodboard, as were stills from Testament of Orpheus, the last feature film directed by Cocteau in 1960, before his death in 1963.
Testament of Orpheus was filmed at Carrières de Lumières and was predominantly a black and white film, aside from a standout colour scene spliced in, which lasted mere seconds. Viard applied an identical percentage of colour usage to her collection; a single pale pink boucle skirt suit and two black dresses with lilac feather trim hems represented the few breaks from monochrome.
“The simplicity, the precision and the poetry of Cocteau's film made me want to create a very clean collection, with a very distinct two-tone, made up of bright white and deep black," Viard said.
Cocteau’s line drawings of doves, stars and beasts were reinterpreted in white prints on fluid silk trousers and billowing robe jackets, with sketches of pearl necklaces and Chanel’s interlocking double C logo intertwined.
Fishnet tights were styled with every skirt in the collection, and were an evocative nod to the Sixties paired with ankle-height white leather go-go boots and minidresses. “[The] look recalls as much the modernity of the sixties as that of punk,” Viard said.
The Breton stripe tops styled under dungarees, and a plethora of great little black jackets, would make ideal additions to any Francophile's wardrobe.
Following the show, the models released white doves into the air, before French singers Vanessa Paradis and Juliette Armanet performed with Sébastien Tellier, as did Belgian pop star Angèle. A more surprising addition to the roster, perhaps, was Charlotte Casiraghi, the Monégasque writer and granddaughter of Prince Rainier of Monaco and Grace Kelly, a new ambassador for the house.
Viard, who served as right-hand to Karl Lagerfeld for decades before his death in February 2019, is an emblem of modern Parisian style herself (she’s got the ruffled fringe and the monochrome wardrobe to prove it).
She says she is still discovering more about Coco Chanel’s pioneering work with each season she gets under her discreet, polished black belt at the helm. Arguably, it was Chanel who invented all of the Parisian style signifiers that are as appealing today as ever.
"Ultimately, through her friendships, it is Chanel, the woman, that I love more and more,” she said. “Her life gives us access to characters just as extraordinary as herself.”