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13th December 2021

OUR CHANEL CHRISTMAS SPECIAL – monochrome chic and eyewear treats: from Coco to Virginie, a French fashion couture house history

‘Fashion changes, but style endures’
Gabrielle Chanel, 1883-1971

‘I love every single collection Virginie Viard has created’
Penelope Cruz, November 2021

This report on our Blankstone Brand of the Month is by our resident style reporter, Nancy Buckland-Kirk.

While fashion fanatics can discuss which labels they love, and the ones that they don’t, it is simply impossible to find someone who doesn’t adore Chanel. A century after Gabrielle ‘Coco’ Chanel first set a new standard in fashion design and cultural change, the brand is about to celebrate her life’s work at a beautiful exhibition in Melbourne, Australia. Chanel never rests on its laurels, however, and always embraces the new: their new podcast is slicker than the average production, and when newly-minted British tennis player Emma Radacanu won her U.S. Open title earlier this year, she was dressed head-to-toe in Chanel for her first red carpet outing.

Gabrielle Chanel was a determined and talented young woman on a style mission: she wanted to move on from fussy, trussed-up formal wear and dress women in clothes which offered more freedom. She created more icons than we could list in one sentence but we’ll offer a few: the legendary No. 5 fragrance, the interlocking double-C logo, the camellia, and the little black dress. ‘Coco’ as she became known wanted to remove society’s vision of how a woman should appear: with bobbed hair, wide-legged jersey trousers and the almost scandalous introduction of the sun tan, it was light years ahead of corsetry, ballgowns and indoor, country-house living. The Rue Cambon was in business.

Coco’s career was filled with many highs and a few lows. The Second World War and its aftermath saw her pitted against Christian Dior’s New Look, which was the kind of aesthetic she didn’t lean towards. It wasn’t until 1954 that she launched herself back into the world of couture, aged 70. In 1955, she created the iconic 2.55 handbag, and by the 1960’s the world’s most prominent women, including the America’s First Lady, Jacqueline Kennedy, were Chanel couture fans. Coco worked right up until her death in 1971.

The Sixties Chanel suit

It would be over a decade before a young, German fashion designer took the creative reins at Chanel: Karl Lagerfeld was hired in 1983 to lift the couture house out of a lull, and into a decade where it would flourish once more. Lagerfeld had his own vision – he respected the history of Chanel, and of its founder, but he wanted to inject some post-punk inspiration into his work. It was a recipe that served him well for thirty-six years. Lagerfeld was also an early adopter of what we would now call brand ambassadors: starting with the legendary Ines de la Fressange, he always enjoyed signing up women he thought represented Chanel perfectly. As the 1980’s progressed, and women moved up a gear in terms of career and social status, Karl offered them unique wardrobe options.

80’s monochrome chic on British supermodel Gail Elliott

The supermodels are out in force – Linda and Christy in one of their famous print ads

Queen of the catwalk – Naomi Campbell

Although Lagerfeld always danced to his own style tune, even he wasn’t immune to the supermodel cultural explosion. In fact, he embraced it. A keen photographer himself, he often used Linda Evangelista and Christy Turlington in campaigns together. Naomi Campbell made history when she modelled Chanel for her first Vogue covers, and Claudia Schiffer became a Lagerfeld favourite: her likeness to actress Brigitte Bardot was too good for Karl to resist.

Whatever headed Chanel’s way, Karl stook to his own stance. After grunge and then minimalism in the 1990’s did very little to alter his choices, by the time a new century dawned, he was still the master of his couture craft. As bling became good, Chanel was seen on everyone from socialites, to rap stars to movie legends: Karl loved being involved in a cultural whirlpool.

Carrie Bradshaw on screen, SJP in real life

Sex and the City also grew from being a cable hit for HBO to a worldwide must-watch for women, and as the show’s power grew, so did the influence of the main characters and their wardrobes. Carrie was the fashion magpie, and introduced us to mixing labels with vintage, and as Sarah Jessica Parker started winning awards for playing her, she has often opted for Chanel couture to pick up her statues.

During the early noughties, Karl never took his foot off the pedal, and Chanel continued to grow in stature. His couture, and ready-to-wear shows, kept us watching with that heady mix of beautiful clothing and a keen eye for what Coco always loved: the statement accessory.

Daria Werbowy keeps the Chanel suit fresh

Linda Evangelista models eyewear in a new era

Monochrome goes space

The great Karl, photographed by himself, of course!

Even after three decades, Karl continued to surprise and inspire by reworking and creating new takes on all of the elements of Chanel that make it so unique. He understood the ever-changing moods of the fashion world, the growth in online presence and social media, whilst always maintaining Chanel’s elite status.

Tweed on the catwalk – Cara Delevingne

For one of his final outings at the helm at Chanel, Karl sent down the catwalk a whole collection of models, bedecked in tweed and monochrome. We never knew it at the time, but it would become part of his great legacy.

Following his death in 2019, Virginie Viard took on the role of artistic director at Chanel. Having worked for the house since 1987, she had a long understanding of everything the job entailed. Her new role was much-discussed. However, her first collection really proved a point. She took references from both Coco and from Karl, but her design stamp was entirely her own. In a way, she took Chanel back to what Coco first brought about: created by a woman, for other women.

Since then, she has created her own space in fashion history. Viard has fully embraced making Chanel a digital force, and has overseen its growth around the world, whilst extending its raft of brand ambassadors to reflect Chanel’s diverse customer base. Viard has driven Chanel though the lockdown period, embraced further cruise collections and the hosting of shows not just in its home base of Paris, but in emerging markets like Dubai.

Super-influencer/fashion star Katy Ackermann at the recent Chanel cruise collection in Dubai

Hollywood royalty and Chanel ambassador, Penelope Cruz

Viard’s vision has been much-applauded: women simply love her tailored looks which are easy to wear, and hard to replicate. Some of her looks for Spring/Summer 2022 reflect her love of freedom, with a little nod to Chanel’s heritage.

On the Chanel catwalk: genius in its simplicity and beauty

Coco, Karl and Virginie all appreciated the allure of Chanel accessories, and they have always played a role every season. They are collector’s pieces, and the eyewear has always been streamlined, delicious and made-to-be seen.

Chanel ambassadors extraordinaire: Pharrell and Margaret Qualley

From Claudia Schiffer to S/S 2022: an homage to supermodel chic

Chanel eyewear is so distinctive, and yet within every range, there is scope to be low-key, highly dramatic, sporty, classic or absolutely current.

SOME OF OUR FAVOURITE BLANKSTONE CHANEL MODELS: new-in and fabulous

Blankstone Chanel Sunglasses 5457QB

These are proving to be a hot hit right now, and as the frames are available in several finishes, from classic black to tortoiseshell, there is a finish to suit everyone. The visible logo makes its own style statement.

Blankstone Chanel Glasses 3423

These glasses are an entirely more subtle affair, and are available in three beautiful colourways, including this timeless black with gilt arms, and that pearl trim adding a monochrome touch.

Blankstone Chanel Glasses 5458

Totally contemporary, these beauties lean on the logo perfectly, and the large lenses and vintage shaped frames add a touch of drama.

As we head towards Christmas, Chanel is our brand of the month here at Blankstone and it is always such a valued and treasured gift: who doesn’t want to see one of those signature black-and-white boxes under the tree? If you want to treat someone then you can always opt for one of our up-to-any-value gift vouchers, or if you want to gift yourself (go on, you deserve it!) then you can choose from one of our 12 festive offers, so that your Chanel comes to you even better value.

For the rest of the month, we are going to be sitting tight each week not just waiting for a certain gentleman-in-red to arrive, but also we will be tuning in to And Just Like That every Thursday, to see what Carrie and the gang are up to, and how she is mixing Chanel with podcasts, technology and a whole new cast of characters.

Some things will remain unchanged though: Chanel is simply forever.

To view our whole Chanel range go to:
https://www.blankstoneopticians.co.uk/product_brand/chanel/

Nancy is a noted fashion writer, and now contributes her own style slant for our Blog every month: eyewear, trends and beyond.

Header image of Helena Christensen courtesy of Harper’s Bazaar Singapore
Additional images courtesy of Chanel Archive/Vogue Runway/Gail Elliott/Karl Lagerfeld/KatyAckermann