The classic 1930s French song, ‘Sous les toits de Paris’ (‘Under the Roofs of Paris’), is part of French folklore. So the set created for the Chanel Spring/Summer 2020 show was a neat way of suggesting that things change – but some are eternal.

And that, of course, applies to the company that lost its leader of 36 years in Karl Lagerfeld in February – and has promoted his long-term assistant, Virginie Viard, in his place. Backstage, she did not talk about the collection, but the general reaction to her work was favourable.

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The good news for loyal customers and potential shoppers was that nothing has changed except colour, youthful energy, and the ability to walk the rooftop set wearing flat or square-heeled shoes. Coco comes first!

We do not know whether Viard is taking tiny steps in a new direction and deliberately keeping the clothes smart and mostly tailored. Except for the colour, which was more vivid and sweeter in its mix of ‘pretty’ pink brightening to a more vivid rose.


Chanel Spring/Summer 2020
©Christophe Archambault / Getty

The clothes were focused very much on daywear – the number of long, swinging tulle skirts could be counted on the fingers of one hand. The change was of short skirts and flaring hemlines that look youthful rather than lady-like.

The high hemlines, although counterbalanced by an overall drop in skirt lengths for next season, seem refreshing for Chanel.

If Lagerfeld left behind any lesson, it is that a brand cannot move too far from its roots – an attitude he seems to have instilled in his successor. Viard takes brand codes such as the Chanel black-and-white checkered tweed suit, but pops a pink woolly sweater under the jacket and turns the cropped skirt effect into shorts. It is no fashion revolution, but she makes tweed look not only cute, but also respectful to women.


Chanel Spring/Summer 2020
©Rindoff / Charriau / Getty

The same applies to evening looks that include a plain suit shimmering with silver. Is there a breakaway moment? Not at all. Not yet. But there are Viard’s bright red cardigan and slim trousers, her short skirts or longer, frillier evening looks worn with a simple spotted shirt.

Of course everything that Coco Chanel did in her day, from the foundation of her boutique on the rue Cambon in 1921, was the beginning of the male/female fashion revolution that has become part of history.

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But tiny changes are there. For the show notes, instead of Karl Lagerfeld’s photographs printed on fine, thick paper, Virginie chose soft photography by Benoît Peverelli that folded into a large single sheet. It was marked as recyclable. A small but distinct step forward to a new Chanel era.

Disposable paper. In small steps, Chanel is moving on.


Virginie Viard takes a bow at the end of her collection for Chanel Spring/Summer 2020
©Estrop / Getty