Chanel’s Virginie Viard had Jean Cocteau on her mind when she designed her striking, monochrome Cruise 21/22 collection. She filmed it at Les Baux-de-Provence, the soaring limestone quarry, turned arts venue, the Carrières de Lumières, where Cocteau shot his 1960 black and white masterpiece, The Testament of Orpheus.

Like poetry in motion, Viard’s models strode through the monumental white stone space, bathed in golden springtime sun. “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,” said the designer. This collection was about perfect pieces – a long, billowing white shirt dress, a cropped white tweed jacket embroidered with Coco’s lucky charms or a swingy LBD with a matching cape.

Viard does not serve dead-on-arrival classics but vivid, edgy clothes that thrill with French girl attitude. Her instinct is always for youthful modernity, “I wanted something quite rock,” she said, “A look that recalls as much the modernity of the sixties as that of punk. Viard’s Chanel girl has a rebel heart. The designer used shimmying fringes of leather, beads and sequins, and made ‘band’ t-shirts bearing the face of the model Lola Nicon to wear with those abbreviated skirt-suits. Viard is steeped in the history of the house but weaves it into her collections with true Parisian nonchalance.

The prints – the female sphynxes, deer and lions – were inspired by the symbols of the house that Coco Chanel surrounded herself with. They’re prominently displayed in her newly restored apartment at 31 Rue Cambon. It was here that she entertained the luminaries of the day, including Cocteau. Viard is just as inspired by Coco’s social networks and creative friendships as she is her fashion legacy. “Ultimately, through her friendships, it is Chanel, the woman, that I love more and more: her life gives us access to characters just as extraordinary as herself.”

Photography courtesy of Chanel. 

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