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Arts

Chanel’s Camellias, Empty Chairs Close Paris Fashion Week

PARIS — Camellias that towered five meters (16 feet) high served as the ready-to-wear altarpiece for Chanel’s sparkling, bloom-inspired fall display.

Meanwhile, Miuccia Prada’s baby sister brand Miu Miu — another headline show on Paris Fashion Week’s last day – drew stars such as Kylie Minogue for its study in off-kilter creativity. Some of the show’s front row seats were left empty amid France’s nationwide strikes again pension reform.

Here are some highlights of the fall-winter 2023-24 collections, including when Associated Press caught up with Penelope Cruz:

CHANEL’S CAMELLIA

It was the flower that launched a thousand designs. Legend has it that the camellia first became Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel’s obsession in 1913 when she pinned one to her belt — seduced, the house said, by its “simplicity, shape, purity and vitality.” Over a century later, the winter flower is still center stage.

“Camellia is more than a theme, it’s an eternal code,” creative director Virginie Viard said. “I like its softness and its strength.”

A model wears a creation as part of the Chanel Fall/Winter 2023-2024 ready-to-wear collection presented Tuesday, March 7, 2023 in Paris. (Vianney Le Caer/Invision/AP)
Models wear creations as part of the Chanel Fall/Winter 2023-2024 ready-to-wear collection presented Tuesday, March 7, 2023 in Paris. (Vianney Le Caer/Invision/AP)
A model wears a creation as part of the Chanel Fall/Winter 2023-2024 ready-to-wear collection presented Tuesday, March 7, 2023 in Paris. (Vianney Le Caer/Invision/AP)

As ever, there was a restraint in Viard’s design aesthetic, for instance, in the use of a limited palette of whites, shadowy blacks and shades of pink. The camellia, too, was handled strictly, adorning pockets, buttons and jackets, prints or leather shoes.

But the ubiquitous sparkle of sequins and in plays in shape — slits in gowns, asymmetrical coats and swooshes of diagonal fabric on skirts — gave the collection motion.

Viard also dabbled in men’s styles with menswear jackets and dandy-like British dressing gowns.

“The faded colors, the dusky pink, the crafted pieces, the touches of 1960s and 70s, a certain English vibe, the comfortable enveloping coats, the authentic materials, make the collections more real, and more charming too,” Viard said.

PENELOPE CRUZ ON LAGERFELD

Penelope Cruz revisited her memories of late designer Karl Lagerfeld following Chanel’s show.

At a 1999 Vanity Fair party, Lagerfeld and current designer Viard were discussing the actress becoming a Chanel ambassador. It was meant to be a secret.

“Karl and Virginie were speaking in French and they thought I was not understanding,” Cruz said. “And they were talking about me becoming an ambassador to the brand. But I understood everything, pretending that I was not, and I was looking to a different place,” Cruz said. “They gave me the great ‘news’ quite soon after that!”

Cruz spoke with love for the house, which feels “like a family,” whose designs and magic had made her dream, even as a young girl growing up in Spain.

The Oscar winner also spoke of Viard’s tongue-in-cheek style. Tuesday’s fall-winter set was based on the 1966 movie “Who Are You, Polly Maggoo?” a satirical French mockumentary about runway hyperbole and the excesses of the fashion industry.

“But of course, Virginie does have a sense of humor,” Cruz said. “You have to be brave to mix some materials and colors. It was fun.”

A model wears a creation as part of the Chanel Fall/Winter 2023-2024 ready-to-wear collection presented Tuesday, March 7, 2023 in Paris. (Vianney Le Caer/Invision/AP)
A model wears a creation as part of the Chanel Fall/Winter 2023-2024 ready-to-wear collection presented Tuesday, March 7, 2023 in Paris. (Vianney Le Caer/Invision/AP)
A model wears a creation as part of the Chanel Fall/Winter 2023-2024 ready-to-wear collection presented Tuesday, March 7, 2023 in Paris. (Vianney Le Caer/Invision/AP)

MIU MIU’S DISRUPTIONS

Nearly 50 screens lining the walls and columns of the Palais d’Iena beamed out scenes of the set construction at the Miu Miu show, beside white tube lighting and a white corrugated iron backdrop.

The program notes came with a text by Korean artist Geumhyung Jeong: “There is a codependency, but in the end, machines do not need us. We need them.”

The link to the decor’s theme of the off-kilter fashion display was unclear to some, but Prada seemed to want to challenge the set rules of dressing.

Knickers poked out from under a brown leather mini-dress, cut so short they were no longer truly underwear. The appliques on one light silk umber gown were so heavy they structured the dress rather than vice-versa. Three-dimensional flowers adorning a top were intentionally obscured by a sheer green cardigan.

The fashion twists bowled over Prada’s guests, who cheered and applauded, including Kylie Minogue in a demure black velvet minidress.

‘CELEBUTANT’ RUNWAY TURN

The daughter of former NBA star Dwyane Wade and stepdaughter of actress Gabrielle Union, Zaya, 15, trod the boards at Miu Miu in her fashion week debut as a model.

“I’m not crying, you are,” Wade posted on Instagram on a story of his daughter modeling.

Wade and Union sat front row in all-black outfits and shades cheering her on, when she strutted past in an oversized olive green knit coat ensemble with pencil skirt and slingback shoes.

The moment may have been even more poignant after Zaya, who came out as transgender in 2020, was recently officially granted gender change and name.

Zaya has become a vocal advocate for queer rights and education for younger LGBTQ+ people.

A model wears a creation as part of the Chanel Fall/Winter 2023-2024 ready-to-wear collection presented Tuesday, March 7, 2023 in Paris. (Vianney Le Caer/Invision/AP)
A model wears a creation as part of the Chanel Fall/Winter 2023-2024 ready-to-wear collection presented Tuesday, March 7, 2023 in Paris. (Vianney Le Caer/Invision/AP)

STRIKES, DARLING

The back-to-back runways of Paris Fashion Week are frenetic. Private cars snake round blocks, snared traffic is normal and crowds of photographers make it difficult to navigate the sidewalks around show venues.

As a result, social movements in the French capital are often imperceptible.

The labor strikes across France on Tuesday left some chunks of front row seats empty at Miu Miu. While Chanel, which last season shut out guests who arrived a couple of minutes late, started its show — gasp — tardily.

Both likely resulted from limited transportation options, with many Paris metro lines shuttered for the day. In addition, some guests left the city early to avoid the chaos of the strikes launched in protest of President Emmanuel Macron’s proposed pension reforms.

Eva Chen, head of fashion partnerships at Instagram, was one such early leaver. Chen posted videos and photos of her trying to reach Charles de Gaulle Airport, including people walking along the highway, owing to a protest blocking traffic around the airport.

Y-PROJECT DISSECTS

Weary fashionistas made it to the finish line at Y-Project – for some representing the final big show of the Paris season’s 107 on-calendar runway collections or presentations.

Glen Martens rarely disappoints with his award-winning scruffy, forward style that riffs on fashion history.

Dissection was a key theme for fall — with black tops snipped away to a rectangle of fabric held by straps, and denim jackets deconstructed in segments. Yet history is never too far away.

An ice blue three-dimensional ruffled tunic hinted at the Shakespearean stage, and a sheer white top evoked the structure of a corset.

 

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