Chanel's Boho Belles

Stretching back in time to reach forward, Virginie Viard visits the Villa de Noailles where art and fashion happily procreate

By Harriet Quick

Sometimes geography and architecture can be the trigger for a collection as much as the people who lived there and the lifestyle they carved out. The striking modernist Villa de Noailles, designed by the architect Robert Mallet-Stevens in 1923, that lies up the hills behind Hyères in the South of France was the discovery point for Virginie Viard. Meanwhile, the friendship between Gabrielle Chanel and the villa’s owner, the eccentric artist and patron, Marie-Laure de Noailles offered up the emotional language surrounding the desire to live life on your own terms and dress to your own tune. 

That bohemian idyll ripples throughout the collection that takes its hues and motifs from the abundant native flora and its unrestricted shapes from pioneering women who refused to be ‘contained.’ “It is an ode to liberty and to movement and tells a story that has its origins in the gardens of the Villa Noailles,” explains Virginie Viard.





How that lands in 2024? Think of gorgeously light tweed kaftan robes in moody bougainvillea purples and pinks laced with layers of necklaces; unstructured blazer jackets to slip over beach shorts; short skirts with uneven ‘two step’ hems echoing the asymmetric architecture and billowing silk chiffon and broderie anglaise prairie dresses. Summer favourites – sun faded denim, terry cloth and sailor stripes - are worked into miniskirts with waist ties and gently flaring jeans while patchwork gilets and Bermuda shorts nod to upcycling ingeniousness. “I tried to bring one thing and its opposite together in the coolest way possible. And the gardens and swimming pool of the Villa Noailles, that exceptional setting, lend themselves to that rather well,” says Viard of the eclectic contrasts. The show’s setting featuring giant blown up images of Hyeres scapes and flowers drew one into a plein air immersion where time does not seem to matter. 

Perhaps a few accessories might do. Consider an aqua sequin shopping bag, a mini flap bag in pearlized white or a stripe CHANEL 22 backpack? Sequin bow fronted slingbacks or camellia motif thongs? All are on the horizon best indicated by nails painted in Lagune, through eyes lined in Bleu Abysse in a make-up line designed by Valentina Li, first in a line-up of four make-up artists in the Cometes Collective.

Marie-Laure de Noailles’ own artworks meanwhile are on view at the Villa Noailles until 5 May. 



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