Chanel Pre-Fall Collection 2021

View Gallery 12 Photos

Chanel filmed its Métiers d’Art show at the Château de Chenonceau with a cast and crew of 300 and precisely one VIP guest: Kristen Stewart.

When foreign visitors take a guided tour of the Château de Chenonceau, one of the jewels of France’s Loire Valley, they are often intrigued by the interlocking Cs that appear throughout the castle.

The initials are those of Catherine de’ Medici, the former queen of France whose portrait hangs above an elaborate carved stone chimney bookended by lions. But to 21st-century eyes, they look remarkably similar to the Chanel logo.

Also known as the Ladies’ Château, Chenonceau has a history marked by a succession of powerful women, of which the Renaissance rulers, in particular, inspired the label’s founder, Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel. That the French fashion house chose to stage its Métiers d’Art collection there is therefore something of a full-circle moment.

Chanel had hoped to invite 200 guests to creative director Virginie Viard’s first fashion show outside Paris, but a second French lockdown forced the brand to revise its plans.

Instead, it will unveil the collection online tonight at 7 p.m. CET, with a fashion show filmed in the castle’s ballroom on Tuesday. The shoot involved a cast and crew of 300 people, and precisely one VIP guest: Kristen Stewart, who will feature in ads for the collection photographed by Juergen Teller, marking his first campaign for Chanel.

“Really, the only difference with what we had planned initially is that there are no guests,” said Bruno Pavlovsky, president of fashion and president of Chanel SAS.

“Even if it’s a video, even if it’s not live, the result will be the same as a runway show,” he added. “We’ve tried to make sure that all the ingredients are there to create the same buzz.”

For the first time, the house has produced exclusive content that can be unlocked by invitation only. It includes photographs of the castle by Teller, which have also been compiled into a coffee-table book, as well as audio clips delving into the history of the place. Narrators include Keira Knightley in English, Penélope Cruz in Spanish and Anna Mouglalis in French.

Pavlovsky said it took guts to bring the collection to the storied setting of Chenonceau, so it seemed logical to commission Teller, known for his pared-back, seemingly improvised aesthetic. “He brought his edgy eye to the place,” he said.

Likewise, Viard was not overly reverential in her approach to the collection, created as a showcase for Chanel’s 38 specialized Métiers d’Art workshops. Lean black coats and jackets topped with ruff collars reeked of palace intrigue, while quilted leather vests and jackets with bouffant sleeves exuded the swagger of a Renaissance prince.

But the designer responded just as much to the fairy-tale aura of the castle, which straddles the Cher river and is surrounded by magnificent woodland and gardens. “It’s somewhere between an animated film and the swashbuckling B movies I used to watch as a child,” she said, citing musketeer epics and the kitschy 1964 classic “Angélique, Marquise des Anges.”

“The women in them were always quite sexy. I was also extremely inspired by the checkerboard floor in the ballroom, Catherine de’ Medici, Coco Chanel — it’s a mix of everything.”

Her sexy maidens were not afraid to don shaggy hunting vests and tweed jackets, slashed at the sides, over bare skin — the racy top halves balanced by ample skirts, including one in inky denim printed with a floral tapestry pattern.

And what about those itsy-bitsy tweed bodysuits? One version, in cream with gold braiding, was topped with a sweeping black coat. Another one, in black, was worn with nothing but bare legs and a lethal attitude, enhanced by the model’s charcoal-ringed eyes and wavy black hair.