Chanel Fall/Winter 2023/24 haute couture collection is an ode to ‘French girl style’

The show emphasises coy minimalism and timeless glamour.

The presentation took place at the enchanting Port de la Conférence with the Eiffel Tower in the background (All photos: Chanel)

Effortlessly charming, graceful and even a little puckish, the Parisian woman’s style is admired and emulated by people from all corners of the world. And when one thinks of the Parisienne, a visage in particular comes to mind: French actress, musician and Chanel house ambassador Vanessa Paradis.

Having risen to fame at 14 with the chart-topping Joe le taxi, Paradis quickly became a global fashion It girl and is widely regarded as one of the late Karl Lagerfeld’s favourite muses. This coveted role was later assumed by her daughter, actress and model Lily-Rose Depp.

Ever the epitome of Parisian chic, Paradis was, naturally, a key source of inspiration for creative director Virginie Viard when she was designing the Chanel Fall/Winter 2023/24 haute couture show that debuted on July 4. Paradis’ return to the forefront of the brand’s image is a full-circle moment that solidifies a generational legacy with the house.

A love letter to the City of Lights, the presentation took place at the enchanting Port de la Conférence with the Eiffel Tower in the background. Tourist souvenir and magazine stands dotted the riverbank, covered in dozens of sketches of Paradis. Guests sat quayside as sun rays streamed down to dance and twinkle across the Seine. Margaret Qualley, Camila Morrone, Clémence Poésy, Sofia Copolla, Lupita Nyong’o and Kendrick Lamar were among the stars to join Paradis on the front row. A makeshift runway of cobblestones painted in soft pinks further played up the romance of the picturesque setting that looked like it was straight out of a postcard.


The collection imagined by Virginie Viard unveils a portrait of a delicate yet bold femininity

For Viard, less is often more, even for couture. Her designs have a signature wearability and subtleness to them, a significant departure from her mentor and predecessor Lagerfeld’s famous theatrics. However, her pieces often conceal stories in the most discreet of details, forever a tribute to Chanel’s illustrious history. The new collection played with contrast and balance, mirroring how the Frenchwoman juggles reverie and reality, bohemian and orthodox. “Playing with opposites and contrasts, with nonchalance and elegance, is like standing on a line between strength and delicacy, which, at Chanel, is what we call allure,” says Viard.

Caroline de Maigret opened the show in a floor-length double-breasted overcoat. The 48-year-old model and writer, who penned the international bestseller How to be Parisian Wherever You Are, was a particularly special and fitting appearance. She joins Chanel’s recent crowd of inclusive casting choices featuring models who defy industry standards still plagued by prejudice and discrimination.

Other notable faces included Dutch mid-size model Jill Kortleve, who donned a speckled coat-dress with hair swept up in a messy, ballerina-off-duty knot, and indigenous model and activist Quannah Chasinghorse in the show’s penultimate look — a shimmering black organza dress belted with golden braiding and a matching tiered cape that fluttered around her as she moved.


Silhouettes play with colour, mixing together rigour and the whimsy

Chanel skirt suits are a never-obsolete classic, and Viard was certainly generous on this front — from neutral tweeds and sensible hems that kissed the knees to striking gold-and-pink numbers and the odd hourglass silhouette that kept things fresh and interesting. Straw boater hats and high-waisted trousers paid homage to Gabrielle Chanel’s love for marrying elements of menswear with more traditionally feminine clothing. Several of the models’ chunky-heeled Mary-Janes featured gold caps, harking back to the two-tone slingback heels that were so beloved by the house’s founder.

Garments adorned by feather flowers, fruit-shaped appliqués and buttons mimicked still-life paintings, offering a coquettish detail to reward sharp-eyed observers. Rather than bags and clutches, some models walked the runway holding delicate wicker baskets brimming with flowers. One sporting a scarlet tweed coat was joined by a friendly canine companion. The blitheness adopted by everyday errands such as visiting the local farmer’s market and walking one’s dog, juxtaposed by sumptuous fabrics and exceptional detailing, was a deliciously whimsical sight.



A series of more glamorous dresses graced the latter half of the show, contrasting the earlier relaxed looks with cascading layers of chiffon and organza, floor-skimming skirts and intricate beadwork and embroidery. The most outstanding in the mix, a pair of black-and-white camellia inspired gowns, evoked images of Swan Lake’s Odette and Odile. The first flaunted white sequin appliqués of the house’s signature flower all over the bodice, a scoop neck and bell skirt. The second came covered in three-dimensional black velvet camellias, with a satin bow hugging the arms to give the dress an alluring off-the-shoulder effect.

Of course, Chanel is not one to forego tradition, so a bride in an ivory frock to close the show was a welcome and familiar sight. The dropped waist, long sheer puffed sleeves and ruffled collar bestowed upon her an agelessness, a sempiternal appetite for play and subversion. Her short dreamy veil was worn in a carefree manner, as if it had been draped over her head mere seconds before she walked out.

As she pivoted to return down the blushed cobblestones, the antecedent models reemerged to grace the runway once again. It was like watching a bride walk down a rose petal-strewn aisle fringed by floral arrangements, towards a fairytale ever after.

This article first appeared on July 17, 2023 in The Edge Malaysia.


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