Chanel Spring-Summer 2023 Haute Couture: A Spring Parade Fit for Couture

Chanel hosts a lighthearted parade with whimsical characters and buoyant silhouettes

For the Chanel Spring/Summer 2023 Haute Couture show, Creative Director Virginie Viard hosted a fantastical festival in the Grand Palais Éphémère. For the collection, Viard has been inspired by the mythical animal sculptures that are scattered around Gabrielle Chanel’s apartment at 31, rue Cambron. French artist Xavier Veilhan has been tapped by Chanel for his now third collaboration with the fashion house, creating cardboard and wooden animal sculptures, reminiscent of the objects from the historic Chanel apartment. As the final guests were seated, the larger-than-life animal sculptures were wheeled out into the Chanel-ian village square as an almost futuristic soundtrack started off the show. “I like it when the marvelous bursts forth and the course of events is interrupted,” shared Viard.

The first of the models emerged from within Veilhan’s sculptures in looks that were just about as playful as the animal figures that surrounded them. The motif of bestiary is consistent from the sets to the clothing, with look 5 showing off a dazzling corgi embellishment on the front of a classic Chanel tweed jacket. An entire host of creatures can be found in delicate embroidery and embellishments throughout the collection; from rabbits to dogs to swallows to stags. Chanel is now the second of couture week to have specific references to animals, alongside Schaipparelli’s lifelike renditions of a lion, snow leopard, and wolf heads in their presentation. Schiaparelli’s show was inspired by Dante’s Inferno, a stark contrast to Chanel’s city square parade — yet the distinct use of animals as a motif is an unexpected shared reference from two of couture’s biggest names.

This idea of playfulness is further pushed by Viard’s commitment to the idea of a village parade using accessories like top hats, bow ties, and white gloves as inspired by a majorette uniform. These accessories acted as the perfect, and perhaps even slightly ironic, additions to the garments, bringing a true sense of fun to the presentation. From pleated skirts to satin capes and tuxedo jackets to short shorts, the majorette uniform as a source of inspiration has allowed Viard to explore elements of costume and turn them into garments that are fit for a summertime soirée. 

Haute couture is known for being clothing that is fit precisely for each customer, yet here, Viard argues that couture doesn’t have to equate to stuffy garments. There is an element of lightness in the silhouettes that were shown — clothing that is just as enjoyable to wear as it is to look at. Classic Chanel tweed jackets have been paired with short shorts and mini skirts while long dresses have a flounce to them; there is an air of freedom in the silhouettes for this summer.

Perhaps the most telling of Viard’s experimentation in lightness and play is seen in the final look of the show, the bride. Emerging from an elephant sculpture that had been wheeled out towards the end of the show, the bride was in a minidress. It was not overcomplicated; a sophisticated yet lighthearted creation for the effortless Chanel bride. Both the dress and veil were covered in delicate white embroidered sparrows, a lighthearted motif fit for Chanel’s midsummer parade celebration.

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