Every season, in the week leading up to the Chanel show, everyone will be wondering: what will be the theme of the Chanel show? For Spring Summer 2021, a teaser video — directed by Dutch photography duo Inez van Lamsweerde and Vinoodh Matadin — was released, showing clips from cult Nouvelle Vague movies of the ’60s, plus a dramatic CGI animation of a giant diorama of the Hollywood Hills — or was it the Paris hills? — inside the Grand Palais. Instead of the iconic Hollywood sign, it spelled ‘Chanel’. The Chanel logo was supersized (upwards of 15 metres high), and took up the full length of the space. While Virginie Viards sets for Chanel shows weren’t as outrageous and fantastical as the late Karl Lagerfeld’s, her renditions have always been about dramatic elegant that left an indelible impression.

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The inspiration for this collection was old Hollywood glam, but it certainly was not a vintage revival. Rather, this was the complete Chanel wardrobe of the modern starlet. The house’s signature tweed appeared in easy separates, including jackets with exaggerated shoulders that were styled with split and mini skirts; layered over clashing prints of tiny flowers, as well as graphic monogram. Confidence was the key accessory, as models strutted in all-over sequins, and a full body catsuit accessorised with a chain belt and stacks of bangles. 

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There was a nonchalant mix of dressed up and down similar to an off-duty celebrity. Matching blazers and vests were worn over capri shorts, and midriff-baring bustiers were paired with pencil skirts. These were the looks that the new generation of silver screen idols would be photographer from the walk of the hotel lobby to the limousine. For after dark, there were gowns in logo monogram; the relaxed silhouettes can easily move from red carpet to afterparty. 

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The accessories this season have also gone microscopic. Tiny Chanel flap bags the size of matchboxes hung like pendants from belts, bangles, necklaces and crossbody chains with just enough space to hold your daily vitamin C dose. There was also a Chanel branded quilted tag worn around the neck of one model that brought to mind backstage passes. 

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The connection between Chanel and cinema goes back as far as the 1930s. Gabrielle Chanel had dressed some of the greatest actresses of every era: Jeanne Moreau, Bridget Bardot, Marilyn Monroe and Jane Fonda. The looks that Mademoiselle Chanel created for Delphine Seyrig in the 1961 movie Last Year at Marienbad had inspired the late Karl Lagerfeld for the Spring/Summer 2011 collection. But Viard was not just inspired by movies themselves; she also drew inspirations from the real and reel lives of the actresses, such as the photo call; the frenzy of photographers and fans fighting for a glimpse of the stars in the flesh; and the actresses alone in their hotel rooms. These cinematic moments were what Inez van Lamsweerde and Vinoodh Matadin honed in on for their videos and images created for the collection. In the black and white footage, leading women, Rianne Van Rompaey, Mica Argañaraz and Louise de Chevigny, were captured in recurring and idealised situations. The hotel room also held a particular significance to the house of Chanel — Gabrielle Chanel lived in a hotel room in the Ritz for 34 years.  

All images and animation by Beige Pill Productions