S/ Was There: Backstage at Chanel with Tessa Thompson

Paris’s Grand Palais was teeming with flowers, feathers, and sequins after being transformed into an abundant garden for the showcase of Chanel‘s Spring/Summer 2019 Haute Couture collection. In attendance of this ethereal eighteenth-century-inspired runway show was Tessa Thompson, donning an all-white skirt-and-top set and black quilted leather belt bag for the occasion. We caught up with the actress to discuss her style evolution, how dressing feminine makes her feel powerful, and her first Chanel couture show experience.

How was your first Chanel couture show? 

“Incredible! I’ve obviously seen shows online but to see them in person, you really do feel transported to a place. It feels like I’m inside of some incredible, beautiful Italian ’60s countryside romance film.”

What inspired your look today?

“First of all, I heard that it was potentially going to snow and I love the idea of a winter white and breaking it up with something that’s black. Also, it’s that classic Chanel black and white, that sort of colour scape, and I know red is also big to Mademoiselle and I brought that into the glam as well. Plus, it just feels great! Chanel’s knits are so special that I decided to wear them head-to-toe.”

What were some of your favourite pieces? 

“I loved those beaded dresses with the tulle sleeves and that seafoam sequin flower off-the-shoulder dress. The construction on some of the pieces looked like origami—it looked just like paper, so delicate.”

Now that you’ve been to a Chanel couture show, how do you feel inspired to evolve your sense of style even further? 

“Something that was remarkable to me when visiting Coco Chanel’s flat yesterday is just how timeless the designs are and also that she was able to take things from her life and put them inside the designs. I think it’s nice to look back at the snapshots of dresses that you wear that they feel like also an extension of what you’re thinking about and who you are at that time. For me artistically I think I’m really coming into myself in terms of what I want to do. I’m in a space where I’m producing and I don’t feel like a cog in something moving, I think I’m finding myself attracted to real power, substantial pieces, and pieces that have boldness and singularity.”

How does fashion empower you?

“I think that we’re in a space, particularly in this cultural moment, where we’re talking about how powerful women are. And while I love suits—I spent 5 months recently wearing suits (I have worn vintage suits everyday since I have been here, two of them three-piece suits just because it feels nice)—but this idea that we are also powerful when we are in heels and a dress, that there’s power inside of femininity, that’s something that I have to remind myself of. When I think of dressing ‘strong’ it’s so easy to think of really strong lines and suiting and the truth is, you can feel really strong and powerful in something that is ‘feminine’. That’s something that I have been thinking about a lot.”

Scroll through the gallery for our favourite looks from Chanel’s Spring/Summer 2019 Haute Couture collection.