A Runway Crasher Was the Most Interesting Thing at Chanel This Season

Graphic: Joan Summers ( (AP)

Karl Lagerfeld is dead, and maybe Chanel is too! The brand’s latest offering in Paris featured a grey backdrop, grey set, and a mostly grey outlook on the brand’s identity, and future, now that its longest running designer isn’t around to pump out tweed skirt suits faster than fast-fashion retailers can copy them. Sadly, it appears this won’t stop new creative director Virginie Viard (Lagerfeld’s longtime protégé) from attempting to do the same!

For its S/S 2020 show, the brand created a rooftop setting with a runway made from corrugated metal. It felt extremely French—which bores me—and lacking Lagerfeld’s signature flair for experimental set pieces. (Remember the Chanel supermarket?) The clothes, then, had to not only look great, but stand out against such a drab visual atmosphere—and I don’t think they were successful at it! The first 20 looks were tweed, and most were dress and coat sets, skirt suits, or oversized blazers made to look like skirt suits. The rest, which transitioned from casual denim ensembles in Breton stripes to pink and blue dress and skirt combos, felt more like a medley of Chanel’s greatest hits than a new (or noteworthy) vision of where the brand is headed.

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Photo: AP

It’s understandable that a house this size, which relies on a global marketplace for tweed, would stick with its most popular product. But the fashion community watched Lagerfeld update the heavy fabric and design template for almost 40 years! Like the clothes against the set pieces, all tweed sent down the runway must do the work of differentiating itself. And like the clothes against the set pieces, these looks failed! Viard’s craftsmanship is undeniable (otherwise she wouldn’t have lasted as Lagerfeld’s artistic director) but can she actually design interesting and creative clothes?

I could swear I’ve seen Kristen Stewart in the blazer that opened the show for at least five years. Chunky necklaces bouncing against pocketed, pink mini dresses with heavy piping and a dark stockings might have made their comeback in the early ‘10s (no thanks to Lagerfeld and Miucca Prada), but quickly disappeared just as fast. The only memory of them? Flash photography outside The Shins concerts in New York City, where young Nylon interns and college kids posed against brick walls with pigeon toes and a peace sign. (If you don’t know what I’m talking about, you do. You’ve just chosen to forget.) I won’t bother with the gowns—they’re long and ruffled—and Jacquemus has already elevated the French Breton stripe far beyond Viard’s baffling take on capri pants and belted blazers.

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Speaking of Jacquemus, the collection’s biggest indictment of its new director’s capability to bring Chanel out of a musty, tweed past? The riviera hats and peasant shirts that closed the show. In 2019! Perplexed can’t even begin to describe my emotions when I was visually accosted by a series of outfits ripped directly from The Devil Wears Prada. Jacquemus, love it or hate it, has absolutely updated the “French look.” To see it filtered back through a Chanel show’s closing moments—and poorly—doesn’t bode well for the brand’s future offerings. While they’ll likely continue selling an enormous amount of clothes, and make an infinite amount of money to continue staging runway shows in the process, should they? These clothes, and Viard’s artistic sensibilities, are not enough to warrant the frivolity of a fake Parisian rooftop paraded around by impossibly thin (and near-blindingly white) models.

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Anyways, I do have to thank French comedian Marie Benoliel, also known as Marie S’Infiltre, for crashing the runway and getting escorted out by a furious Gigi Hadid. At least she gave me something interesting to look at!

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