Mica Arganaraz in Chanel cruise 2020/2020. Photo / Karim Sadli.

Chanel's First Digital Show Is No Substitute For The Real Thing

With physical shows an impossibility, Chanel has gone digital. But did it work, asks Lisa Armstrong

No sooner did Gucci suggest that the fashion show calendar might be in for some long-overdue remodelling to make it fit for a more sustainably-minded world, than Bruno Pavlovsky, the president of fashion at Chanel, declared that as far as his house is concerned, it will be business as usual post lockdown.

The house had no intention, he explained to the businessoffashion.com, of following in the footsteps of Gucci, Saint Laurent and others who have announced they’ll either be reducing their number of fashion shows or seeking alternative communication vehicles. Au contraire, Chanel will continue with the current six annual shows, including the resort shows in glamorous locations (Dallas, Seoul, Dubai...). This season, the resort show was to have taken place in Capri.

The show must go on, according to Pavlovsky who told BoF.com that as far as Chanel is concerned, everything starts with the show. If Chanel and guests can’t get to the resort, the resort, in some guise, must come to them.

So last week, Chanel’s PR officers found themselves in the unprecedented position of emailing digital packages featuring looks from the resort collection shot against an exotic-looking background.
Reactions have been mixed. The New York Times called some of the clothes frumpy and described the delivery as unimaginative.

READ: Gucci Initiates A Change of Direction For Fashion With Two Shows A Year

I agree Chanel’s digital approach is no substitute for a show in Capri - and I wish it were. The fashion schedule - pre-lockdown at least - was bloated with unnecessary shows, adding to the fashion industry’s already thumpingly large carbon footprint.

WATCH: Chanel resort 2020/2021

It would be terrific if this house, so imaginative in its approach to conventional shows, could find an equally imaginative alternative medium. But so far, we haven’t seen it - the general consensus on last week’s British Fashion Council digital genderless fashion week is that while it was a noble attempt to create some much-needed buzz around the nation’s catwalks, it didn’t work. Maybe the BFC’s failed not because it was digital but because it wasn’t bold.

However, let’s not overlook what is - for Chanel - a quietly radical aspect to this latest collection, which, as Virginie Viard, Chanel’s creative director puts it, “can be carried in a little suitcase on wheels, a shopper and an embroidered handbag”.

Slashed tweed skirts, blouson jackets may not look new, but peer closer and those long skirts become strapless dresses when pulled up. Long jackets in black chiffon can be worn by day over a triangle bikini (if you’re so disposed), or by night with an embroidered bandeau top and jeans.

READ: Andre Leon Talley's Tell-All Memoir Questions The Future Of Glossy Magazines

Dresses in fine transparent lamé are coupled with jackets that can be untied and slipped over a pair of crêpe shorts. There’s even a degree of (relatively) prudent housekeeping. “I’d just discussed my ideas for the Cruise collection with my team when lockdown was announced,” explains Viard.

“From then on, we had to adapt. We decided to use what we already had - fabrics that we had in stock; I had jeans made with pockets and appliqués in tweed, that can be worn with suit jackets from previous seasons.”

Even the super-rich are bringing out clothes from seasons past. Actually, they always did, but now the houses are acknowledging it as part of their storytelling. This collection could be more revolutionary than it seems.

- The Daily Telegraph

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