Under Lagerfeld, the brand took up integral elements of the Chanel lexicon – the double-C motif, chains, tweed, and costume jewelry – but with a material and formal twist that lifted them into the present. The House of Chanel became the patron par excellence of haute couture craft, buying up 12 specialist ateliers in embroidery, shoemaking, and fabric flower making.
Like Gabrielle Chanel before him, Lagerfeld cultivated his own image, with his flamboyant white coiffure, sunglasses, fingerless gloves, and companion cat, Choupette. Memorable spectacle came to define the Chanel fashion show, too. Lagerfeld installed icebergs, waterfalls, and supermarket checkouts on his catwalks. The cruise collections, an extension of the brand’s ready-to-wear lines, were presented at Grand Central Station in New York, Santa Monica airport, the Lido in Venice, and the Grove of Three Fountains at Versailles.
After his death in 2019, Lagerfeld was succeeded by Viriginie Viard, his closest collaborator and the woman he described as “my right arm…and my left arm”. Altogether less extrovert than her predecessors, Viard disdains social media. Her approach, says Chanel ambassador Kristen Stewart is “action versus talk”.
That action is anchored in the same elegant essence that has sustained Chanel for over 100 years, bridging a deep love and respect for luxury craft with a spirit of freedom, nonchalance and ease. “My approach to work has always been rather simple and pragmatic,” Viard told Vogue last year “but more than ever, I feel truthfulness and a realness will be leading me going forward.”
Words by Eliza Apperly