Backstage at Chanel With Tracee Ellis Ross

Trace Ellis Ross

Day three of Haute Couture Week in Paris began with a stunning show from CHANEL, brimming with Parisian pride. Models clad in impeccably tailored tweed suits, textured gowns, and an exciting variety of ankle boots walked down a “sidewalk” in the Grand Palais, which was transformed to look like the banks of the Seine. Innovation was found in the runway’s inclusion of a newsstand filled with all things Coco Chanel, as well as Karl Lagerfeld‘s newest obsession—the use of zippers on long skirts and sleeves to reveal a chic surprise beneath.

Many high-profile guests were in attendance, including award-winning actress Tracee Ellis Ross. We caught up with her backstage to get her thoughts on the collection, how clothing has helped to shape her most celebrated moments, and her hopes for what’s next in fashion.

What did you think of the collection?

“I thought it was stunning. It’s always beautiful to see what he [Karl Lagerfeld] does—the craftsmanship and the details always take your breath away.”

Did you have a favourite look?

“There were quite a few but I’m not going to tell you what they are because we’ve got to peg them for me for the Emmy’s! I don’t want anyone else thinking they love them too. I will tell you that I really loved all the boots and the little feather head pieces.”

Will you don one of those?

“I love something decadent, so probably.”

Do you have a favourite CHANEL style moment?

“My dress from the last Emmy’s. It was stunning, with feathers and beading and everything. It’s always a pleasure and honour and a delight to wear CHANEL Haute Couture.”

What does Haute Couture mean to you? 

“The history of CHANEL and the magnitude of what the house means—there’s a couple that just sort of have been forever, and then Karl Lagerfeld is Karl. It’s one of those things where it’s the reverence of what it stands for.”

Fashion wise, when do you feel most empowered? 

“I think when I feel joyful—when I feel in my skin and that I’m wearing my clothes and they’re not wearing me, which is a lot of what I bring to fashion. I really dress myself—yes, I have support from Karla [Welch], but it’s an expression of who I am. I think that clothing for me is either an armour or a form of creative expression, so it can be a combination of both. I think there’s a way that clothing kind of etches you in time—in that moment when I was the first black woman nominated in 30 some odd years for the Golden Globe, I knew that the dress I was wearing was going to etch me in that moment because that’s the way it would be remembered, so there’s a way that clothing kind of articulates the story beyond just the moment.”

Do you have any style heroes? Obviously your mom is amazing…

“Yeah, my mom’s incredible. Cher, Audrey Hepburn, Katherine Hepburn, Nina Simone, I could go on…”

What do you like about those women and how they express themselves?

“There’s a strength and a sort of boldness to all of them, and an ability to be themselves. Katherine Hepburn with the pants redefined the strength of a woman and the way she dressed—Audrey Hepburn and her delicate elegance and the power of that. Cher in her beyond extravagance and the owning of her body and taking that power, and then my mom just in her glamour and her glory. Nina Simone, owning a sense of beauty that culturally we’re not trained to see but she owned her style and her beauty in a way that changed me in seeing and looking back.”

What do you hope for fashion, what do you want to see in fashion?

“The same thing we want to see everywhere—inclusion. All the different kind of stories told through clothing, through all of it. I think all of us have a lot more work to do, but I think one of the things that is happening in fashion that I love is there’s a sense of a reflection of the times we’re in. You always see it in a way it’s unexpected—I feel like you’re seeing that strength of the shoulders and an easier shoe and things like that right now.”