So Penélope Cruz wore a Chanel Haute Couture dress to the Los Angeles premiere of ‘Ferrari’ by Michael Mann on December 12th and we wanted to know more about. It seems that, in exactly the same way that the biggest car companies like to flex their creative muscles and show off their expertise through the creation of concept cars, the world’s most influential fashion houses use haute couture as a statement of strength and technical ability. You could say it’s their way of showcasing their most outrageous ideas, where budget presents no limit to ambition.
Yet, Chanel’s creative director, Virginie Viard, who succeeded Karl Lagerfeld in 2019 (after having spent three decades as his protégée) clearly believes haute couture can also be about making real clothes for real, modern women – albeit ones who live in a delightful alternate reality. In short, her collections aren’t about fantasy. Instead, she utilises the magic of the couture ateliers to make pieces that pique the imagination. Case in point, Look 20 from the Spring/Summer 2023 Haute Couture show. It’s a black crêpe de chine silk maxi dress with a multi-coloured flower print. Sounds simple enough, right? Wrong, because over each of these flowers, Chanel’s talented artisans have embroidered a three-dimensional flourish using a painstaking method of marquetry using dyed goose feathers. After that they added black and white goose feathers, delicately placing them around each of the 300 coloured blossoms in order to provide a relief. And, as a final touch, they then embellished the centres of the flowers with 3,500 little pierced shards, which had to be hand-stitched individually by needle.
It’s incredible to imagine how many manhours it must have taken to craft such a delightful dress, yet it’s also irrelevant, as it exemplifies Viard’s greatest asset: her commitment to understated elegance. “The clothes remain light, feminine, designed to be worn,” she explained after the show. “I can’t see myself doing it any other way.” And why should she, especially when Penélope Cruz looks this effortlessly good wearing it.