If the nave of the Grand Palais has metamorphosed in a cloister garden for the Spring-Summer 2020 Haute Couture show, it is to transport us to one of the key places in Gabrielle Chanel’s childhood. After the death of her mother in 1895, she and her sisters were sent by their father to the orphanage of the ancient Cistercian abbey of Aubazine, in Corrèze, to live alongside the other little boarding pupils. It was in this timeless place hidden from the world, that the young Gabrielle was marked for life by images, a rigour, a purity, a whole aesthetic that would never leave her, imposing itself as one of her major sources of inspiration.
Everything in that abbey seems to have fascinated and shaped the imagination of the girl who one day would become Mademoiselle: from the paving of the corridor in the convent building, made of cobblestones that formed mosaics with the abbey’s coats-of-arms composed of the moon, the sun and the stars to the Cistercian stained glass windows whose abstract motifs could have inspired the interlacing of her own monogram. All the keys to a style were already there, marking the poetic mind of a child with their mystery.
“Mademoiselle Chanel imposed the invisible: she imposed the nobility of silence on the furore of high society,” wrote Jean Cocteau. A silence that undoubtedly came from the cloister of the abbey at Aubazine with its wildflowers, its sheets drying in the sun scented with soap and cleanliness, its perfect geometry and serenity. “It’s a very touching place, very inspiring. I felt good there,” concludes Virginie Viard.
A place, where Gabrielle Chanel spent a part of her childhood, which would nourish the stylistic grammar of CHANEL: the floor paved with different motifs such as stars, the stained glass windows and their geometric interlacing patterns, the rigour of the black and white habits, the collars and smocks of the boarding pupils… All these elements are subtly embedded into the silhouettes in this collection with a young and affirmed allure, shoed in sock or lace up booties and worn with white tights.
On straight dresses in two-tone wool or tweed, the flat pleats, braided belts sported high on the hip, collars in cotton piqué or Bertha collars embellished with embroidery echoing the paving stones or stained glass windows of Aubazine, evoke the attire of schoolgirls. Double-breasted pea coats with their tweed skirts share the same spirit.
Fastened with jewelled buttons set with stars or flowers, trimmed with braids, with a high or folded back collar, the suits in beige tweed are worn alternately with skirts that are flared or veiled in tulle. Sometimes emphasised with fine woven cords, in natural colours, they exude a countryside charm.