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Malibu Barbies and Hollywood starlets: See inside Chanel’s Los Angeles catwalk show

<i>Donato Sardella/WWD/Penske Media/Getty Images</i><br/>Models walk during Chanel's 2007 Resort runway show in Santa Monica
Penske Media via Getty Images
Donato Sardella/WWD/Penske Media/Getty Images
Models walk during Chanel's 2007 Resort runway show in Santa Monica

By Marie Lodi, CNN

Los Angeles (CNN) — The worlds of film and high fashion have long been intertwined. Whether through costume design, red carpet fashion moments or celebrity-led campaigns, the two industries have developed a powerful symbiotic relationship. Which is why the location for Chanel’s 2023/24 peppy and playful Cruise show, which the brand presented at Paramount Studios in Los Angeles on Tuesday night, made perfect sense.

“Together, fashion and cinema lead us into a waking dream,” the show notes promised, “nourished by an energetic invitation to step into the spotlight and never leave the dance floor.”

But there is also a personal connection between the French fashion house and Hollywood. Virginie Viard, Chanel’s creative director since the death of Karl Lagerfeld in 2019, worked in costume design in the beginning of her career; Coco Chanel herself was famously persuaded by film producer Samuel Goldwyn to come to Hollywood in 1931 to ensure his films’ fashions wouldn’t look outdated by the time they were released. She ended up with more than a half dozen of costume design credits under her belt.

Serving as Viard’s “ode to the City of Angels,” the runway show marked Chanel’s return to Los Angeles after some 16 years away. (In 2007, Lagerfeld unveiled his 2008 Cruise collection in a Santa Monica airport hangar. Models strutted out from two Challenger 601 jets onto a literal runway, while the era’s It girls — Lindsay Lohan, Mischa Barton, and Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, among others — looked on.)

A lot has changed in the years between the LA of the late aughts and the LA of today. While the city has always been a centerpiece for American celebrity culture, its luminaries have changed — or, at least, their playing field has expanded. Today’s fashion influencers are the darlings of social media and subcultures as much as they are long-established actors and socialites, with fanbases spanning the globe and the Internet. Luxury brands like Chanel have learned to embrace that and, while still staying true to their heritage, reinventing their aesthetic to celebrate the old and the new, drawing from the past while looking to the future.

But as much as our definition of celebrity has evolved, the glamour and aspiration so closely associated with fame remain, as they do in fashion. For Chanel, curating this frisson began with their show’s invitations. Designed by the French artist André Saraiva as an apparent play on festival lineup posters, each guest’s name was listed, headliner-style, above those of A-List Chanel ambassadors like Margaret Qualley, Kristen Stewart, and Margot Robbie. The result? Very Coachella. (In other words, very LA.) If Chanel’s aim was to make everyone feel like a star, it worked.

Inside Paramount’s lot, the runway itself was set up almost like a football stadium, with bleacher seats, scoreboards and stadium lighting. Chloe Sevigny, Elle Fanning, Halsey, Kris Jenner, H.E.R., Kimora Lee Simmons, Paris Hilton, and Sofia Richie were just a few of the stars in attendance.

As the show began, a massive screen showed a short video of Chanel ambassador Alma Jodorowsky. In the clip, the actress — granddaughter of director Alejandro Jodorowsky — was seen lifting weights on a West Coast-worthy beachscape, styled and performing like an ’80s Workout Barbie.

In fact, there were a lot of Barbie references in the show: Pink leisurely looks, sherbet-colored tweed sets, and lace dresses and tote bags in ombré shades that brought Pacific sunsets to mind. (The show notes highlighted the use of gold in particular, “evoking cinema’s halcyon age, its empress-like actresses, the bright lights of the projectors and the eternal California sunshine.”)

A couple of pieces featured a funky, pastel graphic print perfect for a doll’s wardrobe; another highlight was the light-up rainbow heels that featured in a number of the looks. This wasn’t a first for Chanel, as Lagerfeld used light-up heels in collections in 2008 and 2011, but Viard’s take was nostalgic and uber-feminine.

Surely, Robbie will be taking a few of these outfits on her “Barbie” press tour.

“There’s that fun, playful side that Karl kind of started, from the original Chanel that is super elegant and chic,” director and Chanel ambassador Sofia Coppola, who also attended the show, told CNN in a phone interview the day after the show. “I feel like Virginie continues with that spirit, but in her own way.”

The collection wasn’t all candy colors; there were black leather dresses, cut-out bodysuits, aerobics-worthy activewear and a few silhouettes that paid tribute to Old Hollywood glamour with a modern twist. “Between the dream on one hand and what you want to wear on the other, it’s all a question of balance,” Viard explained, per the show notes. The show’s soundtrack also paralleled these dichotomies, as dance tunes from Felix da Housecat alternated with moody movie scores from Tom Ford’s “Nocturnal Animals” and 1992’s “Basic Instinct.”

“Virginie has a background in costume design, so when you see the girls go by, there are different personas,” said Coppola. “She creates these different characters and I love seeing that.”

After the runway came to a close, that dance floor promised by the show notes became a reality thanks to a surprise performance from Snoop Dogg — with an Anderson Paak cameo to boot. As the crowd sang along to “Drop It Like It’s Hot,” sliced fruit with Tajin seasoning, an LA street food delicacy, was passed out just in time for Snoop to ask the age-old question: “Who’s got that sticky-icky?”

With an inherent part of fashion and Hollywood’s continued collaboration being the endless hunt for the next trends and trendsetters, it’s often the age-old questions that are the most prescient. As Coppola puts it, it’s about curating, “more of an approachable attitude towards fashion, and fun.”

Top image: Models walk the runway during the finale of Chanel’s 2023/24 Cruise show.

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