It was quite possibly the moment the fashion world had been waiting for: a moment of great beauty and escapism, where it could — for a short while at least — forget about the problems and literal ills barraging the world at present. The much-awaited Chanel Spring-Summer 2021 Ready-to-Wear Collection (SS21 RTW) provided that solace, and in what style!
Held at the Grand Palais in Paris, 500 mask-wearing guests were welcomed by a backdrop that evoked the iconic landmark that is the Hollywood Sign in Los Angeles; except this time, it spelt out C-H-A-N-E-L. Although the international fashion corps would concede it was the most austere show (by the grand maison’s standards, at least) to date, there was still an abundance of style, savoir-faire and, in-keeping with the times, ample space for social distancing.
“I was thinking about actresses at the photocall, on the red carpet, that moment when they’re being called to by the photographers: their faces a little distracted, their attitude a little out of sync with the outfits they’re wearing,” says Chanel artistic director Virginie Viard. “And then there are the fans waiting for them behind the barriers, this very lively side to cinema that happens beyond cinema, that’s what I like.”
And judging from the effusive post-show response, it’s what the world liked too. And very much so. Alongside the maison’s classic Chanel codes that championed elegance and timelessness by way of black tweed suits, excitement and up-to-dateness was provided by way of pops of fluorescent colours. Silhouettes ran the gamut from fluid to structured; textures veered from full-on sequins to extraordinarily fine detailing; and dreamy, assymetrical dresses vied for attention together with abbreviated but chic Bermuda short suits. “Gabrielle Chanel and Karl Lagerfeld dressed so many actresses in film and in real life,” Viard continues.
“I was thinking about them who make us dream so much. But without wanting to replicate. Without falling into a vintage citation. I wanted it to be very joyful, colourful, and very vibrant too.” Just as the 1980s proved to be a downturn period for cinema, what with the advent of the Video Home System (VHS) phenomenon, 2020 is certainly its Great Depression, underscored by the rise and rise of Netflix and the physical inability to come together as a society for entertainment in a confined space.
But Chanel’s ode to the fantasy of Hollywood couldn’t have come at a better time, showing the world there’s still beauty amid despair and, most importantly, hope despite all that the year has thrown at us. After all, cinema is the easiest and greatest form of escapism. And how more poignant and precious that Chanel’s SS21 RTW pays it due homage, bringing us to, not just Paris and Hollywood, but also to a better place — in every sense of the word.
Watch the video below:
See the full collection here.