As Chanel Haute Couture Spring 2023 invites us into the enchanting world of animals, it takes us to the heart of what Coco Chanel adored so much. In her collection, Virginie Viard reworks the luxury houses’ couture codes, such as the tweed jacket and the little black dress, to create a youthful and relaxed look. The silhouettes are classic yet contemporary, with details such as ruffles and boxy shoulders. Viard’s collection combines light and natural materials to evoke dreamlike and romantic femininity, with animal motifs embroidered and beaded.

The Set Design

Virginie Viard is known for staging shows closely associated with Coco Chanel. In 2019, Viard presented her debut Chanel’s Métiers d’Art 2020 collection in the Grand Palais, which had an art deco staircase and a majestic jewelled chandelier replica of the 31 rue Cambon apartment. For this year’s show, Viard took French installation artist Xavier Veilhan to the 31 rue Cambon apartment and asked him to reinterpret the plethora of animal sculptures and drawings for the stage.

Using the figurines as a walkway to the set brought them to life and created a sense of anticipation as the models stepped in, out, and in between the animals. Even when placed among similarly toned pieces, the intricate details of the animals’ wooden carvings allow them to stand out. As soon as the first model walked down the runway, the set began to resemble a parade.

The Face

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As one of the most in-demand models for Spring ’22, Loli Bahia walked 65 shows during Fashion Month last year. In May last year, the French-Algerian model opened Chanel’s Grand Prix-themed Resort ’23 show in Monte Carlo, Monaco, and then landed her first campaign with Chanel for Metiers d’Art Spring ’22. The 20-year-old model made her runway debut at Louis Vuitton’s FW20 show.

The Palette

The colour scheme is as Chanel-like as it gets, with black, white, dark blue, and beige dominating. A few looks featured hues ranging from bright salmon to soft baby pink and some lavender. It was also lovely to see the tweed sets have metallic weaves, given Coco’s love of art deco.

But overall, dark undertones permeate the collection.


Notes on Codes

The iconic tweed is reintroduced on a variety of garments and in a variety of shades, often paired with white gloves, an essential accessory for Coco.

A fundamental house code would also be the Little Black Dress – a concept popularized by Coco Chanel in the 1920s. With different garments and accessories, Viard presented multiple interpretations of the little black dress throughout the collection.

But one thing was missing – camellias! Despite the camellia flower’s noticeable presence on dresses or tweed suits in most collections, the SS23 designs included floral patterns, and embroidery, and flower-shaped buttons – a precious element of a Chanel design.


Even though these looks feature exquisite and delicate embroidery, they come across as slightly relaxed. The jumpsuit, in particular, has an air of casualness to it, making it a better fit for a ready-to-wear collection.

Regarding the bridal look, it may be that Viard wanted to provide a modern take on the wedding dress while also providing it with a silhouette similar to that of a little black dress. Since the birds are the focal point, a change in the dress’ length and the embroidery’s size would’ve drawn the eyes more and created a more enthralling appeal. Nonetheless, it remains charming.

KHAMSA’s Top Looks

Finale Note

At times, I would’ve liked to see Viard play with certain elements, such as the hats and bow ties, and perhaps experiment more with sizing, fabrics, colours, and even symmetry. Even though some looks would lend themselves to something other than such elaborate styling, it would have been a pleasant twist on some ensembles.

Viard’s SS23 collection prioritizes ease of movement over wearable theatrics. Many looks from the collection were created with comfortable garments that flatter the body, reminiscent of Chanel’s signature silhouettes. The pieces are made with lightweight fabrics and emphasize freedom of movement, creating a sense of luxury through comfort. Such themes are close to Coco Chanel’s vision, as the late designer envisioned Chanel as a house of elegance and ease. And as the years have demonstrated, it’s clear that Viard seeks to create wearable – and times, slightly whimsical – couture rather than flamboyant extravaganza.

Rand Al-Hadethi is an art, culture, and fashion writer who approaches all her creative endeavours with a penchant for storytelling. She explores the intersection of fashion, culture, and society and sheds light on talent and cultural movements across the Middle East and the world. Rand also publishes a bi-monthly themed substack newsletter called WebWeaver™. To reach Rand, email her at or follow her on social media @rundoozz.