Sixteen years ago, give or take a week or two, Chanel staged its second-ever cruise show in Los Angeles. Models spilled from the doorway of a private jet branded with the house’s double Cs onto a runway that wrapped around a Santa Monica airplane hangar. At the time, it was a jaw dropping display of brand power—the French house had not yet begun building over-the-top sets for its ready-to-wear and couture shows at the Grand Palais in Paris; the famous iceberg collection, for instance, was still a couple of years away.
With apologies to the late, great Karl Lagerfeld, that resort 2008 happening had nothing on the spectacle the house put on at the Paramount Studios lot tonight for resort 2024, what with stars including Margot Robbie, Kristen Stewart, Riley Keough, Issa Rae, and Marion Cotillard lighting up the front row, and a post-show performance by none other than the native Angeleno Snoop Dogg. Mixed in with the celebrity watchers, there was also a smattering of striking WGA members outside the lot urging show-goers to “tell Paramount to give writers a fair deal.”
A 30,000-square-foot Chanel store, the brand’s biggest in the U.S., opened on Rodeo Drive last week. There are useful synergies to putting on a show here in LA, but the storytelling Chanel did around this resort collection was devoted to its Hollywood connections. Coco Chanel’s first trip to California was almost 100 years ago, circa 1931. She created clothes for movies by directors including George Cukor and Jean Renoir. During his 36-year tenure at the label Lagerfeld strengthened Chanel’s cinematic bonafides, befriending Penelope Cruz and Tilda Swinton, among many other actresses, in the process.
Ahead of Viard’s show, movie billboards promoting it as a “One Night Only” event went up around town, making an explicit point about Chanel’s embeddedness in LA’s dominant culture. (Speaking of brand power, as this show was being prepared, Chanel was also busily involved in the Met Gala in New York, which honored Lagerfeld’s many decade career.) Every one of the show’s hundreds of guests also received their own mini version of the billboard, with their name in top billing: The suggestion: In Chanel everyone is a star, with light-up heel shoes to prove it.
As a matter of fact, Viard didn’t look at the silver screen or the red carpet for inspiration, but to what appeared to be a more quotidian example of Los Angeles: the Venice Beach boardwalk, a see-and-be-seen playground for roller skaters, weight lifters, beach bunnies, and epic sunsets. “I thought let’s do Jane Fonda, Cindy Crawford—all our heroines,” she said at the “accessoirsation” of the collection a day before the show. “There are jeans, a more aerobic feeling; every show is the occasion to do something we’ve never done before.”
Viard’s stamp is the more feminine, youthful hand she’s brought to the house since taking over as artistic director in 2019, but the sporty vibe of the collection, with its leg warmers, wedge heel sneakers, running shorts, and swim tanks, plus the occasional skateboard, was something new. Think of it as a Chanel look for a star’s every occasion, including, in a serendipitous bit of timing, Robbie’s upcoming press tour for Barbie, which is shaping up to be the movie of the summer. Just one more propitious synergy.