From the first looks to hit the runway at the Grand Palais to the last, the Chanel fall and winter 2020 runway collection was all about those seven-league boots — black leather with a generous fold-over flap in contrasting brown leather that added a dash of swashbuckling swagger to some looks and horse-racing flair to others.
They were, artistic director Virginie Viard said in her postshow notes, a nod to Chanel’s creative director, Karl Lagerfeld, who died just over a year ago and who owned a similar pair.
Seven-league boots get their name from European folklore (the wearer could magically stride the distance of seven leagues in a single step). Here too they seemed to work a bit of magic as one of the several elements that helped make the collection feel more accessible and more commercial but in a way that didn’t feel as if it was compromising the luxury cred of the Lagerfeld era.
Helping in this department was the other eye-catching element from Tuesday’s runway show: coin-sized snap-button fasteners that embellished suit jackets as well as pant-leg side seams, giving the latter the ability to flare at the ankle and sway with each step.
The track-pant-like trousers were inspired by jodhpurs, Viard wrote, and tops riffed on jockey silks, nods to both Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel (who apparently owned a racehorse named Romantica) and a photo of Lagerfeld wearing riding boots and a striped suit.
But make no mistake about it, even while she was paying homage to the two fashion giants who made the house what it was, Viard was in a full gallop to put her own imprint on it.
This could be seen in an overall more relaxed, easygoing silhouette that, in addition to the athleisure-style deployment of snap-buttons, also included bandeau tops, skirts and pants in sweatsuit gray, puffer-like coats and a range of roomy white shirts.
Taken together with the chunky, eye-catching statement jewelry that hung around necks and encircled waists, it telegraphed the arrival of a new Chanel women: softer, yes, but also more powerful and more sure of herself, one who seems to confidently stride seven leagues in a single step whether on the Paris catwalk or Rodeo Drive.
Whether or not she’s wearing a pair of magical boots.