In the south of France, on the hills of Hyères, the modernist villa of Charles and Marie-Laure de Noailles, designed by architect Robert Mallet-Stevens in 1923, is constantly bathed in sunlight. Its numerous terraced gardens, surrounded by creeks through which the landscape is cut into as many images, offer a unique view. This magical corner of France was to be, from the 1930s onwards, a place where Coco Chanel and Marie-Laure de Noailles, a famous art patron, would enjoy frequenting. And so it is that the volumes and outdoor spaces of Villa Noailles – from the cubist chequered garden to the sunken flowerbeds – become a primary source of inspiration for the SS Prêt-à-Porter 2024 collection on the occasion of its centenary celebration. Virginie Viard of the present dialogues with Gabrielle Chanel of the 1930s and the more recent Karl Lagerfeld, also a great lover of the architectural monument, the intention is to stage an association of incredibly creative personalities who have contributed brilliantly to making the Chanel Maison what it is still today. Villa Noailles was a meeting point for artistic gatherings, a fertile place of inspiration that reflected the avant-garde spirit of the time, frequented by Buñuel to Man Ray, Dalí to Cocteau.
“The Spring-Summer 2024 Ready-to-Wear collection is an ode to freedom and movement, and tells a story that has its origins in the gardens of Villa Noailles.”
The exaltation of light and colour is the creating element on the catwalk along with the profusion of geometric patterns, contrasting asymmetries, patchwork and patterns. Stripes play and give rhythm to a collection that defines its own idea of elegance in casualness and persuasive affability. The Chanel woman is enterprising and autonomous but also conservative, components of the allure dear to designer Virginie Viard who reinterprets the Maison’s codes for each season in favour of a style made of visual and material contrasts. Like the different multi-coloured tweed dressing gowns, black or pink, or the striped terry cloth jackets in any shade. The clothes take on the multitude of suggestions intrinsic to the villa without betraying the motionless Chanel world: tweeds, prints, suits, ballet flats, bouclés and chamber jackets are brightly expressed on the catwalk. References to Marie-Laure de Noailles and Gabrielle Chanel, who shared a strength of character and friendship with the artistic avant-garde, can be found in the black sunglasses adorned with gold chains, for example. A certain joie de vivre pervades the entire collection, found in the various floral motifs covering neoprene dresses and lace trousers. The exultation extends into the sleeker, more dynamic silhouettes that investigate shorter garments, such as the top with sunburst pleats, striped Bermuda shorts and open double-breasted jackets.
“Sophistication and informality, tweed throughout the collection, sportswear and lace: I tried to put one thing and its opposite together in the coolest way possible. And the gardens and the swimming pool at Villa in Noailles lend themselves quite well to this.”
Viard decides to remember and at the same time celebrate lightheartedness that centre of libertine energies that was the French Villa: swimwear, organza babydolls, sportswear and evening dresses follow the same sun-kissed path. Dresses are free of constraints and emancipated from structures: waists are low, heels are flat and jackets have neither straps nor linings, while the iconic ballet flats enter the scene for the first time under a sophisticated denim suit. Trousers with pockets, wide-leg shorts and asymmetrical skirts are complemented by bows and pleats. A certain idea of sensuality permeates the garments – dresses, shirts, petticoats, bras – in black organza, the transparency of which allows for infinite layering, while some vest-jackets turn into dresses. Virginie Viard brings Paris haute couture to the South of France to rediscover the beauty of a fertile and libertine artistic period, inviting everyone to a walk in the park of Villa Noailles. Chanel language is structured and firm, built through contrasts and recognisable codes that together remind us that there is a sophisticated and simple way of dressing. In the finale, once again Virginie Viard reinterprets the essence of the campaign echoing the lace dress printed in red, yellow and blue – worn by the reservedness of an upper middle-class lady.
Gently pushed by an atmosphere of joy, sport and celebration, the elegantly carefree Spring Summer Prêt-à-Porter 2024 collection is an invitation to enjoy life in the open air.