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ON THE cobblestone sidewalks of the Seine with the Eiffel Tower standing tall in the background, Paris looked like a postcard, like a still from an old rom-com and the romantic setting for Chanel’s autumn-winter 2023 couture collection.

Though not entirely on purpose, this glimpse of the capital was far from the reality of the political uprising that the surrounding streets are witnessing after the unjust killing of Nahal M a week ago, but I guess that’s what fashion does best – offer us a fantasy beyond what is actually happening for a few minutes.

And for Chanel’s AW23 offering, Virginie Viard focused on translating the key codes of what it means to be Parisienne into couture. Though somewhat indefinable and more just that ‘je ne sais quoi’, the designer decided to look into the contrasts and balances that build up the look, explaining in the show notes: “Playing with opposites and contrasts, with nonchalance and elegance, is like standing on a line between strength and delicacy, which, at Chanel, is what we call allure”.

The idea of being Parisienne fascinates everyone, with books and styles all formed just so people can try and emulate the way they dress, and with this in mind, Viard explores films, literature and music ahead of the collection, finding this idea of ‘allure’ something that threaded itself through all mediums.

Tweeds, chiffons, organza and lace were juxtaposed with florals and graphics, seeking to find this middle ground of effortlessness attached to Parisians and bring it into the universe of couture. Unlike others showing during this time, glamour needs to be understated – the Parisian way – and sophisticated; embodying both of these qualities is Vanessa Paradis, and this is exactly who became the muse for AW23.

With romance themes, the main hues of both Paris and this collection, Viard also brought back wicker baskets – a favoured bag in the 1970s but heightened with embroidery of strawberries, blackberries and floral designs.

Two-tone Mary Janes were also adorned by many in vibrant shades, and masculine moments were seen in waistcoats, pin-striped tailored trousers and vest tops, seeking to elevate this idea of contrast.

Having set out to bring “the most unlikely elements together” and “doing things your own way”, Chanel’s AW23 couture collection was a beautiful, simplistic array of couture that was entirely wearable – a quality not often seen in the uppermost areas of fashion.

And with the biggest buzzword of the industry being ‘quiet luxury’, Viard set an unmatched example of what this means.

by Imogen Clark


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