Written By:

Performance was centre stage at today’s Chanel Couture outing, with the pre-show heartbeat resonating through the corridors of the Palais Garnier. The five-minute bell rang, signaling a new era. No lead designer, no Virginie Viard, simply just the studio —150 craftspeople creating the 46 looks at the six ateliers within 31 rue Cambon.

The auditorium doors opened as if the audience were exiting after the final curtain, and the models stepped out into this new era, beginning a new dialogue for Chanel before the next designer is appointed. This is much like an election—fashion politics. Guesses about the new designer have fuelled many conversations this week, but the talk at the show hinted at someone humble leading the next chapter. No sign of Le Pen then. In a world of ego-driven fashion stars, the humble are as rare as the Cullinan diamond (it has also been a week of high jewellery appointments).

Chanel has been a grand patron of the Opera National de Paris since 2023, a patron of the Ballet de L’Opera since 2021, and a patron of its history too. It runs deep—Gabrielle Coco Chanel created costumes for the ballet as far back as 1924. Opera, avant-garde ballet, and fashion make a wonderful mix, and apart from the inherent theatricality, the science of this pageantry delivered in this relatively intimate space enabled us to get up close with the clothes.

The collection had a sense of Viard’s handwriting but also an element of impulsive fun. Micro short bodices were paired with swaggering capes, promising the sexiness of something to be revealed later, perhaps. The evening dresses and ball gowns were a romantic swoon of elegant embroideries, illusion tulle, taffeta, and duchesse satin. Lashings of black, gold, and white were cut with pale pink and celadon. The details included jewelled embroidery: cabochons, cameos, pearls. Elements from chandeliers with pendants of blown glass. The lightness came from the subtle layers of transparency. Dresses with embroidered bras. Black Karl bows in the hair. And the music was good: "Lovely Head" by Goldfrapp and "Life Is" by Jessica Pratt.

Talking to Naomi Campbell, dressed in a fabulous crunchy gold Chanel embroidered dress, she told us, “This was the Chanel I love and has the energy that I’ve been exposed to since 1986, it had the fluidity too.” Campbell, hot from the opening of her namesake exhibition at the V&A in London, knows a thing or two about making something memorable after four decades in the business.