Chanel delves into founder's orphanage past in couture show

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A model wears a creation for the Chanel Haute Couture Spring/Summer 2020 fashion collection presented Tuesday Jan. 21, 2020 in Paris. (AP Photo/Francois Mori)

PARIS – A humble stone fountain, overgrown shrubs and flowers, and white sheets drying on a line met Pharrell Williams and other curious guests at the Chanel show inside the Grand Palais.

The set recreated the landscape house founder Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel viewed as a child after her mother died and her father sent her away to an abbey orphanage.

If such a lowly — and sad — setting seemed like an unusual choice to showcase high-priced and normally joyous couture, it was an intentional move by designer Virginie Viard to demonstrate how Chanel mixed high and low in her fashion.

Here are some highlights from the second day of Paris Fashion Week haute couture shows for spring-summer 2020.


Chanel, Viard discovered, had been profoundly inspired in all her designs by the ancient Cistercian Abbey of Aubazine, in the French region of Corrèze — with its flowers, uniforms and stained-glass artistry.

The theme made for a more haunting collection than normal — a mood emphasized by loud, spooky music and models that slowly crisscrossed the courtyard like they were in a trance.

A take on a convent schoolgirl uniform opened the show as a signature Chanel tweed skirt-suit. It was cut sharply, with a round ecclesiastical white collar and baggy white preppy ankle socks. Mosaic patterns in panels evoking stained glass appeared on an equally strict jacket in pastel blue and sand. Apart from the occasional flash of color, most of the designs came in black and white.