The longstanding tradition of the extravagant Chanel shows being held at Paris’ Grand Palais was interrupted for Autumn Winter 2021, when grandeur was exchanged for an intimate experience. Virginie Viard set the collection film at iconic nightclub Chez Castel, located in ultra-chic Saint-Germain-des-Prés.
After establishing in 1962 by Jean Castel, the club became one of the most exclusive evening destinations of Paris, frequented by French and international glitterati: Serge Gainsbourg, Brigitte Bardot, Salvador Dali and Madonna, to name a few. This superstar clientele was mirrored by Chanel ambassadors who appeared in a pre-show ‘Zoom’ session, attended by Jennie Kim, G-Dragon, Victoria Song, Liu Wen, Soo-joo Park, Caroline de Maigret, and others.
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While some collections this season proposed serving suggestions for a post-corona nightlife, Viard conjured up the glamorous nocturnal golden age of Paris. Models file into the historical night club, and luxuriously fix their looks behind retro beaded curtains. Then, heading one by one down those iconic winding stairs, they emerge inside a subterranean lounge, decorated extravagantly like a starry winter wonderland. Then, they throw down their winter coats at the vestiaire, revealing barely-there party looks, before disappearing, perhaps, into a private VIP suite beyond.
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The collection is a feast of sumptuous layers that peeled down to take the models from the ski slopes to the lounge. Slouchy oversized tweed coats are caped over ruched minidresses and playful bodysuits overlaid with silky chiffon; midriff baring bandeau tops peek beneath long, slinky coats; and quilted jumpsuits printed in the Chanel logo are worn over sheer knits, topped off with comfy beanies. Relaxed and softly tailored pieces—like an elevated cargo pant in tweed, slouchy denim decked out in silver Chanel double-C’s (worn with furry moon boots), and whimsical faux fur suits—were all about the luxury of comfort.
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Ironically, a show that was intended to exist only virtually could not help but make its mark on the real world. Segments of the runway film were shot on the streets outside Chez Castel. Days leading up to the show, videos of unofficial ‘BTS’ emerged on TikTok, shot by perceptive Rue Princesse residents who had the serendipitous pleasure of forming an exclusive live audience.