June 1, 2023

The day before presenting her Chanel resort collection on a sandy runway slicing through the pebbles of the Hotel Monte-Carlo Beach, the brand’s artistic director Virginie Viard was in a nostalgic mood. As she garlanded her models in jewelry dripping with gilded dolphins and sea shells—and the “Sac Monaco” in the red and white color block of the Monegasque flag—in the cavernous space of the hotel’s poolside Art Deco ballroom, Viard recalled many happy moments spent with Karl Lagerfeld in the monied, minuscule principality where he maintained an apartment and leased the extraordinary Belle Epoque villa La Vigie. It was on the terraces of this villa that Viard remembered Lagerfeld shooting Linda and Christy in the iconic sequin scuba jackets from his spring 1991 collection. “That was very funny,” she recalled, “I adore La Vigie. At the end I was here every year: for the Bal de la Rose, with Karl, [Princesses] Caroline, Charlotte, for shootings…We would always go to Rampoldi, Karl’s favorite restaurant.” It was those memories of Princess Caroline and her equally beauteous daughter Princess Charlotte (several of whose birthdays and whose wedding Viard attended, and who sat at the show next to French rapper Abd al Malik and across the pontoon from South Korean rapper G-Dragon) that infused the spirit of the collection, as well as a playful take on what else Monte Carlo means to the designer—“the casino, Helmut Newton’s girls, the car races…we like to play with all the cliches!” As Viard added, the inspiration drew on collective memories. Sofia Coppola, for instance, who filmed the resort collection with her brother Roman this season, remembered a family trip to watch Ayrton Senna race in the 1992 Monaco Grand Prix—“noisy, glamorous, exciting!” said Coppola—when they were all invited to stay at La Vigie. (“It was incredibly luxurious,” Roman recalled, “the linens! The beds!”)

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Thinking of those races by way of Charlie’s Angels, Viard dressed her girls in a racing driver’s all-in-ones and mechanic’s overalls, although these were sequined and, perhaps, designed as trompe l’oeil jacket and pant combinations. There were silk prints of waving starter flags fashioned into drifting chiffon skirts to graze the ankles, and tweeds woven from images of massed cars on the tracks, abstracted on the loom into a shimmer of asphalt gray and brilliant primaries. And for purses, how about an adorable mini full-face driver’s helmet? Sure to be high on the Chanel addict’s must-have list. (There are real helmets, too, if racing is your game, and number 5 your lucky number). There are also wrestling shorts, biker jackets, cricket sweaters, and tennis rackets if you are so inclined. The Helmut Newton inspiration, meanwhile, meant some sexy attitude in the shirt dresses slouched off a shoulder and a plethora of short shorts and minis that brought with them the promise of summer. The wonders of the 19M ateliers of craftspeople were reflected in touches like the bouquets of beautifully crafted silk flowers, an evening slink bristling with feather fronds (both supplied by Lemarié), and witty t-shirts sequined to suggest racing driver’s tops (sleeves branded with linking Cs), or scattered with pretty floreate embroideries by the storied houses of Lesage and Montex. “It’s very inspiring to be here,” said Viard, looking across to the pool and the Mediterranean waters to the high rise metropolis rising up the hills beyond, “It’s easy.” Just like Viard’s breezy collection and her uncomplicated vision for dressing today’s Chanel woman.

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