The luxury fashion house also calls time on extravagant fashion shows

Chanel may be about to bring down the curtain on its ultra-spectacular Paris fashion shows, its new designer Virginie Viard hinted on Monday, as the French brand revealed its first collection since the coronavirus crisis. Extravagant, hugely theatrical shows on enormous sets inside the French capital's Grand Palais became synonymous with the luxury label during the long reign of German designer Karl Lagerfeld, who died last year.

But his discreet successor Viard, the Kaiser's longtime righthand woman, said recreating almost life-sized space rockets, jumbo jets, river gorges, Eiffel Towers and even complete Alpine villages with snow and ski slopes was not her thing.

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On Monday, June 8, the rue Cambon fashion house unveiled the silhouettes of its Cruise 2021 collection, which had initially been scheduled to show in Capri on May 7. Christened "Balade en Méditerranée" (A trip around the Mediterranean), this first post-health crisis collection drew inspiration from legendary actresses of the 1960s, who nonchalantly took advantage of the Riviera sun with simple, light, chic and casual clothes, which, like long skirts that can also be worn as bustier dresses, were at times multi-functional.

"Initially I had Capri in mind, where the show was supposed to take place, but didn't happen in the end because of lockdown. So we had to adapt: not only did we decide to use fabrics that we already had, but the collection, more generally, evolved towards a trip around the Mediterranean... The islands, the scent of the eucalyptus, the pink shades of the bougainvillea," explained designer Viard in a press release.

"I have never been a fan of pharaonic shows, even if they were great with Karl," she told the French daily Le Figaro. "Sometimes he would ask me, 'Is it too much?' and I would reply, 'For you it is great but I dream of a little show'," Viard added.

Even so, she said that coronavirus permitting, Chanel would return to the Grand Palais for its next show during Paris fashion week in October.

"It will be the last at the Grand Palais which is undergoing major refurbishment in January," Viard said. "It is a place filled with memories, and every time we marvelled (at the shows). I like the cinematic aspect of what we did there."

'No risk of weirdness' 

Viard said that although she hugely misses Lagerfeld, she has a "different vision" to him. "With me, you won't be risking walking out in something weird," she laughed.

Sometimes Lagerfeld "would ask himself if he had gone too far," Viard said. "But since he always took it to the nth degree, his idea would become brilliant."

Viard, 58, who dreamt of being a film director before dedicating herself to fashion, revealed the cruise collection through a studio-shot film evoking the Italian island of Capri, where the show was supposed to have been unveiled in May. She said the highly practical summery looks were conceived so they could be thrown into "a little suitcase on wheels, a shopper and an embroidered handbag", with long skirts becoming strapless dresses when pulled up. 

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Long black chiffon jackets could "be worn by day over a triangle bikini or with an embroidered bandeau top and jeans" by night, Viard said. The collection was very much in Viard's own image with plenty of deft Parisian classic chic touches to go along with bare midriffs adorned with strings of jewellery and tummy belts, tiny bags, flip-up sunglasses and gladiator-style armband bracelets.

Cruise collections traditionally showcase holiday wear for glamorous foreign travel, a luxury some jetsetters may have to forego this year.

The daughter of two doctors, Viard said she was not immune to the effects of the coronavirus which she said has "left us all feeling more fragile", and therefore steered clear of evening dresses. Instead, she wanted to create something "simple and luxurious and charming. I hope people will be touched by it."

Viard said the clothes will be in the shops in November along with her summer collection which has been eclipsed by the Covid-19 crisis.

And she insisted that Chanel's haute couture collection will be ready to show in Paris in July when the shows will be held digitally.

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