No other garment in the world better defines the meaning of allure. No other garment in the world is as recognisable at first glance. Undoubtedly because the CHANEL jacket is so much more than just an item of clothing: it is a signature, an imprint, a freedom. Accompanying women’s movements, revealing the movement of each woman: it is unique and yet eternally reinvented.
An intuition presides over the creation of the CHANEL jacket. From the very beginning, Gabrielle Chanel, avant-garde, daring, liberated, ensured the constant evolution of womenswear. “I really care about women,” she would say, “and I wanted to dress them in suits that make them feel at ease, but that still emphasize femininity.” This idea, so simple and yet so revolutionary, led to the birth of the tweed suit, and with it, the jacket. Gabrielle Chanel saw womenswear of the 1950s as too constrained and unsuited to the era, so she imbued this garment with a casual elegance, making it supple, functional and comfortable all at once. An intuition? A revolution.
Starting with the material: tweed. From a simple fabric reserved for menswear, she established a signature in the mid-1920s. Inspired by the laid-back elegance of the men who came into her life, and in particular the Duke of Westminster, she transgressed the sartorial codes of her era by choosing fabrics for their comfort, just like jersey, and then tweed, which she made more supple and comfortable. “It was me in fact who taught the Scots to make lighter tweeds,” she said.
Jeanne Moreau wearing a suit and the 2.55 bag at Rome airport in 1961
Then the line, obviously: straight, structured, fastened edge to edge. It was her, and her alone, who defined this allure. “The elegance of clothing comes with the freedom to move”, she would say: the construction of the CHANEL jacket obeys only this principle. The savoir-faire of the tailleur atelier on the rue Cambon responds to an absolute exactitude. The front is mounted along the straight grain, with no bust darts, to increase suppleness without losing its shape. The same principle is applied to the back, separated simply by a seam down the middle. The sleeve is set high on the shoulder to optimise comfort. The lining responds to the same requirements: there are as many lining panels as tweed panels. “the inside should match the outside”, she’d often say. The two fabrics, intimately stitched in an almost invisible way, thus move together, with nothing restricting the movement. To ensure a perfect drop, a brass chain is sewn into the hem of the jacket, on the lining. Every detail is considered. The braid, is self-evident: braiding highlights the contours of the jacket, the edges of the pockets, the cuffs of the sleeves, while adding a graphic strength. As for the buttons, they are like jewels in galalith, in resin or in metal, embellished with a lion’s head, with wheat, with a camellia or branded with a double C.
Stella Tennant portant une veste en tweed en 1996®Karl Lagerfeld
While Gabrielle Chanel invented the tweed jacket, it was Karl Lagerfeld who gave it a new lease of life, when he arrived as head of the House in 1983. His creativity was limitless as he reinterpreted the jacket with an impertinence and humour, capturing the air du temps and women’s desires like nobody else could. In 1985 he put it with a pair of jeans and a sporty striped top, and it was like a rebirth: the CHANEL jacket never stopped being an icon, endlessly reinventing itself. With every collection, the designer had fun without ever forgetting the allure. Guided by his culture and his limitless imagination, carried by his encyclopaedic knowledge of the garment, of the cut, the proportions, he dared to try everything without losing sight of the style. He put the jacket with shorts, with a swimsuit and a wedding dress. He offered it in an infinite variety of tweeds: adorned with sequins, beads, embellished with feathers, woven from strips of tulle, organza, chiffon, lace, denim and leather. He worked the proportions, playing with its length, its volume, its shoulder span, always encouraging the tailleur ateliers on the rue Cambon to undertake new challenges, multiplying the references, the fabric innovations, the cut and the details. Thanks to the savoir-faire and the innovation of the Métiers d’art, he also proposed countless braids, tweeds woven by the House of Lesage, jeweled buttons… “There are some things that never go out of fashion, jeans, a white shirt and a CHANEL jacket,” he said. In 2012 the couturier paid tribute to it with the book, The Little Black Jacket: Chanel’s Classic Revisited by Karl Lagerfeld and Carine Roitfeld*, demonstrating the scope of its modernity through more than 100 photographs.
Movement, freedom, comfort, this is what composes an allure. Moving, living, being oneself, unhindered, these are the founding principles that inspired Virginie Viard for the 2019/20 Cruise Collection. In keeping with the stylistic vocabulary of Gabrielle Chanel and Karl Lagerfeld, she reworked the CHANEL jacket with a delicate modernity into a multitude of propositions: with two, four or six pockets, with or without collars, with shoulders soft and rounded or on the contrary square and nervous, cut short or long, single or double breasted with draped panels, belted with a chain interlaced with leather. Virginie Viard also offered a new vision of the suit, as flowing miniskirts with patch pockets, lengthened knickerbockers, Bermuda shorts or leggings all accompany the lined blouse jackets with matching linings. The colours of the tweed are frank, violet, green, fuchsia or blended in variations of subtly mirroring tones. This season the CHANEL jacket also comes in a waxed cotton canvas or a cotton tweed, evoking every variation of denim, and reveals itself in a sophisticated purity with each perfectly precise detail: subtle braids, jewelled buttons with a muted shine, silk linings that extend the tweed motif in perfect continuity… From intuition to creation, from collection to collection, the CHANEL jacket never ceases to weave its beautiful story.
*The Little Black Jacket: Chanel’s Classic Revisited by Karl Lagerfeld and Carine Roitfeld. Steidl, Göttingen, 2012.