A look at Chanel’s artistic director Virginie Viard’s take on the iconic jacket so far
Then and now
The word "iconic" gets thrown around too easily in fashion nowadays, but when it comes to pieces that have stood the test of time, not many brands enjoy the credibility that Chanel has had over the decades. It's impossible to mention the French fashion house without thinking of its classic flap bag and tweed jackets—while the former's core design remains unchanged throughout the years, the latter continues to be reiterated every season.
But the one thing they all have in common is that, regardless of the silhouette, details or colour, they become a staple that will last a lifetime in your closet.
Like many wonderful creations, it all began with an idea. In the 1920s, Gabrielle Chanel said: "I really care about women, and I wanted to dress them in suits that make them feel at ease, but that still emphasise femininity." This led to the birth of the tweed suit. The use of tweed was inspired by the sportswear that belonged to her then-boyfriend, the Duke of Westminster.
Comfortable yet sophisticated, it didn't take too long for the trend to start spreading like wildfire, especially in an era where women's clothing were comparably more restricted. In the '30s, the designer began combining the material with cotton, silk, and wool for a more high-fashion take. And the rest, as they say, is history.
In 1983, Karl Lagerfeld took over the helm 12 years after Gabrielle Chanel's death. With a vision to take the brand to another level, Lagerfeld shook things up and gave Chanel's signatures a new lease of life. From suits in denim and bright neon hues to embellishment and embroidery, the tweed suit was constantly reinvented.
It wasn't long until he started pairing the tweed jacket with jeans, shorts, swimsuits, and even with a wedding gown. And then there were the proportions, the length, the cut—you name it, he's done it. One thing's for sure: he knows what women want.
Fast forward 91 years since the creation of the tweed jacket, the Maison is now under the helm of artistic director Virginie Viard, who showcased her first solo collection, Cruise 2020, in May last year. While staying true to the late Karl Lagerfeld's vision, the designer ushered in the new era of Chanel and focused on the allure that makes the French fashion house so sought-after over the decades.
Putting an emphasis on movement, freedom, and comfort, she injected those inspirations into the outerwear and introduced updated designs with pockets and softer shoulders, and cinched with a chained leather belt to enhance the silhouette. Take a closer look and you'll notice the little details including jewelled buttons, braids, and silk linings. Our favourite? The skirt suit in waxed cotton canvas and cotton tweed that exudes a hint of utilitarian vibe, setting the tone for the season.
The Spring/Summer 2020 collection was designed with young women in mind. The vibe was light and ethereal—designs were equal parts playful and feminine, and colours ranged from fail-proof black and white to girly pinks and statement metallics. The jacket was reimagined and refreshed, appearing in the form of a playsuit and flouncy pleated dresses, or paired with shorts, Bermuda shorts, and voluminous skirts for a statement-making sentiment. Details-wise, pops of embellishment à la sequinned trims and jewelled buttons seal the looks on a shiny note. It is, undoubtedly, one of the most wearable collections to date.
Métiers d'Art 2020
Viard's Métiers d’Art 2020 collection, on the other hand, was elevated like no other. By infusing both her predecessors’ and her very own aesthetic, the line-up boasted an array of emblematic black-and-white designs with feathers adorning the hems, or in boxier silhouettes with nothing but necklaces worn under. But the most talked about pieces go to the tie-dye co-ords that was inspired by a pink tweed suit with a graduated lining created by Gabrielle Chanel in 1960. It’s our favourite collection from the designer so far, and Fashion Editor Joan was there to view it up-close.
Her eye for wearability continues to blossom during the Autumn/Winter 2020 season. Referencing ‘something old’—the casaque (jockey silks in French) worn by the jockey who rode Romantica, the racehorse that belonged to Gabrielle Chanel, the opening look featured bands of white satin on the sleeves that offered a sporty flair. This was replete with slouchy johdhpur pants and equestrian-like boots. The ‘something new’? Branded press studs instead of its usual buttons, and a crisp streamlined design that came with scalloped hems.