Earlier this month, a soignée crowd gathered under Chagall’s famed fresco at the Palais Garnier to celebrate opening night of the 2019/2020 dance season of the Opéra national de Paris.
The gala’s patron, Chanel, was the perfect match for its showcase of Variations, a Schubert-scored opera originally choreographed by Serge Lifar in 1953. Lifar was a Ballet Russes dancer who later went on to choreograph some of ballet’s most enduring programmes, and in turn, his friendship with Gabrielle Chanel inspired the night’s costumes: six breathtaking silk tutus designed by Artistic Director Virginie Viard to mimic rose, lily, tulip, wisteria, cornflower, and violet. The House of Lemarié, floral parurier, which belongs to the house’s Métiers d’art, made the flowers for each costume: on a gossamer silk organza, beads, green, and silver-grey lurex threads and silk petals in pastel hues draw a bouquet of flowers in relief, delicately affixed on a black line painted by hand.
Such is the delicate stuff we’ve come to expect from Chanel’s multitude of métiers, but the house’s connection with dance can be traced back even further: to 1913, when Gabrielle Chanel first discovered Rites of Spring, a ballet she’d later patron for the Balles Russes in 1920. In 1924, together with Sergei Diaghilev, Jean Cocteau, and Pablo Pisacco, Chanel would go on to costume Le Train Bleu, a Cubist ballet about wealthy 1920s society on the Côte d’Azur.
Ballet was a distinct reference of Karl Lagerfeld, and in 2009, he designed dancer Elena Glurjidze’s outfit for The Dying Swan, a costume that took over 100 hours in the Lemarié ateliers (and more than 2,500 feathers) to bring to life. His final stamp on ballet came in 2016, when at the request of Benjamin Millepied, he created the sets and the costumes for the Brahms-Schönberg Quartet ballet with choreography by Balanchine.
“Just like the Opéra de Paris, the House of Chanel is an institution, both classical and contemporary: it has an incredible heritage, but also a strength, a modernity and an open-mind,” said Aurélie Dupont, Director of Dance at the Opéra national de Paris. Several gala attendees, including French stars like Alma Jorowsky, Virginie Ledoyen, and Caroline de Maigret, seemed to be inspired by this enduring connection. To wit, Dupont herself was a vision in white toile and embroidered flowers at the gala, certainly a call back to the house’s visionary, intertwined history.
Scroll through the gallery for a look inside the elegant evening.