How Anna Sawai Stays "Grounded" Even at Her First Chanel Couture Show

The 'Shogun' star tells us how she found her front row look—while feeling like she could "be my own self."

Anna Sawai in an elevator wearing a chanel cruise set and matching bag
(Image credit: Hippolyte Petit)

I have never attended couture fashion week as a guest of Chanel. If I had to guess what it feels like to get a camellia-topped invitation for the first time, get dressed by the house, and sit feet away from the Fall 2024 collection as it glides by, I can imagine it's an opulent moment. Anna Sawai, star of FX's Shogun, similarly tells me she wasn't sure what to expect from her first Chanel couture show on Tuesday. Preparing to ascend the steps at Paris's Palais Garnier, home of the opera and this season's runway, Sawai did know how she wanted to dress the part.

"I was able to try on very different outfits and it was hard to choose because it really was so different," Sawai tells me a few hours after her front row debut. She and stylist Karla Welch were caught between two routes headed in aesthetically opposing directions: one sweet and soft look, one edgy and all-leather.

In the end, Sawai took the road with less excess: a leather waistcoat and coordinating Bermuda shorts, straight from Chanel's Cruise 2024/25 collection that debuted earlier this spring. It was the closest, Sawai says, to how she really dresses. "I felt like going to these kind of shows, I wanted to at least feel grounded and be my own self."

Anna Sawai peeking out the doors of her hotel room in a chanel look before leaving for the chanel haute couture show

Anna Sawai takes Marie Claire inside her getting-ready process for her first Chanel Haute Couture show, held at the Palais Garnier in Paris.

(Image credit: Hippolyte Petit)

Anna Sawai getting ready to attend the chanel haute couture show while looking in the mirror

Sawai, working with stylist Karla Welch, chose a black leather top with matching bermudas—look 14 from Chanel's Cruise 2024/25 collection.

(Image credit: Hippolyte Petit)

Bringing the rest of the look together was a lesson in juxtaposition. Sawai chose pointed-toe heels to up the elegance factor of her matching set's biker-chic energy. "And for my hair and makeup, we wanted to kind of balance it out," she explains.

With makeup artist Yumi Mori and hairstylist Jennifer Yepez, Sawai leaned into classics: a fresh makeup look with rosy, glowing pink blush, a sleek bun with pieces pulled out to frame her face. And even then, the actress wanted to incorporate another contrasting element: "We also topped it off with a beautiful Chanel ribbon, which I think is like a cherry on top."

Anna Sawai applies chanel makeup while getting ready for the chanel haute couture show in paris

Sawai worked with makeup artist Yumi Mori on her glowy face beat. It was, of course, achieved with Chanel beauty.

(Image credit: Hippolyte Petit)

Anna sawai drinks tea in her hotel room before attending the chanel haute couture show on June 25

Sawai says her hair and makeup "balanced out" her black leather look.

(Image credit: Hippolyte Petit)

Once Sawai made it to her seat, she wasn't necessarily swept away by the hanging chandeliers and velvet-lined steps at the opera house. Her eye went straight to the more understated pieces amid the over-the-top lineup.

When I ask if there's a look she'd wear off the runway, Sawai speaks directly to my New York City uniform dresser heart. "They had some nice black looks and I am a pretty simple girl," she laughs. A dress layered with chandelier beads and embroidery—plus a mesh skirt—spoke to her for "a fancy, fancy dinner."

anna sawai stands in her hotel room in paris wearing a chanel look before leaving for the chanel couture show

Sawai gives photographer Hippolyte Petit a final look at her matching set (and "cherry on top" hair bow) before leaving the hotel for Chanel's show.

(Image credit: Hippolyte Petit)

Anna Sawai wearing a chanel couture matching set in her hotel

Sawai also stopped by Chanel's atelier ahead of the show. Seeing the couture artisans at work was "just so mind blowing," she says.

(Image credit: Hippolyte Petit)

Guests who've filed into the same seats and watched the same models for season after season can maybe feel jaded by the whole affair. Seeing it for the first time, Sawai soaked in the details that might be overlooked in a recap Instagram story.

"I wasn't expecting it to be such a theatrical experience," she says. She paid close attention to not just the clothes, but the way they were presented. "We heard the footsteps of the models. I thought it was just being played as a tape, but there was actually a guy holding the mic at her footsteps." Turning her focus to a beaded belt became a runway ASMR exercise: "You can hear them hitting each other and making this very high toned beautiful ring."

Maybe Sawai was looking for those details so closely because she'd seen them in progress just a day before—a sneak-peek not every showgoer gets. Ahead of the runway, she also went to visit artisans at the Chanel atelier, hard at work on the final feathers, beads, and camellia flowers involved in each look.

"I learned how much time it takes and how many people really it takes to create like one flower—and to see that all come together and form into this beautiful look," Sawai says. "The whole experience itself was just like a new and very, very opulent experience for me and the appreciation for all that goes into it is so important, too."

Anna Sawai in the elevator at her hotel before leaving for the chanel haute couture show

"The whole experience itself was just like a new and very, very opulent experience for me," Sawai says.

(Image credit: Hippolyte Petit)

For some guests, today's show is the first and last time onlookers will see them in their best tweeds and collarless jackets—at least until the following season's runway. Sawai's next Chanel moment will come a little earlier. In the second season of Apple TV's Pachinko, which premieres this August, the actress suits up as the high-powered lawyer Naomi in vintage suits from the house.

The way Sawai describes it, dressing for an intergenerational period drama isn't all that different from dressing for a present-day front row. When her onscreen persona wears Chanel, she's tapping into her power. "My character is a lady in the eighties who is having to face masculinity in her company," she explains. "Gabrielle Chanel fought for the liberation of women, and making them comfortable."

And while Sawai may be more familiar with walking onto a prestige TV set than walking up the steps to a couture show, she still gets the same feeling where her wardrobe is involved: "I feel so lucky that I was able to wear a Chanel suit on that, too." Once again, her clothes keep her grounded.

Shop Anna Sawai's Chanel Couture Beauty Look

Halie LeSavage
Senior News Editor (Fashion & Beauty)

Halie LeSavage is the senior fashion and beauty news editor at Marie Claire, where she assigns, edits, and writes stories for both sections. Halie is an expert on runway trends, celebrity style, emerging fashion and beauty brands, and shopping (naturally). In over seven years as a professional journalist, Halie’s reporting has ranged from fashion week coverage spanning the Copenhagen, New York, Milan, and Paris markets, to profiles on industry insiders including stylist Alison Bornstein and J.Crew womenswear creative director Olympia Gayot, to breaking news stories on noteworthy brand collaborations and beauty launches. (She can personally confirm that Bella Hadid’s Ôrebella perfume is worth the hype.) She has also written dozens of research-backed shopping guides to finding the best tote bags, ballet flats, and more. Most of all, Halie loves to explore what trends—like the rise of doll-like Mary Janes or TikTok’s 75 Hard Style Challenge—can say about culture writ large. (She justifies almost any purchase by saying it’s “for work.”) Halie has previously held writer and editor roles at Glamour, Morning Brew, and Harper’s Bazaar. Halie has been cited as a fashion and beauty expert in The Cut, CNN Underscored, and Reuters, among other outlets, and appears in newsletters like Selleb and Self-Checkout to provide shopping recommendations. In 2022, she was awarded the Hearst Spotlight Award for excellence and innovation in fashion journalism. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in English from Harvard College. Outside of work, Halie is passionate about books, baking, and her miniature Bernedoodle, Dolly. For a behind-the-scenes look at her reporting, you can follow Halie on Instagram and TikTok.