When Chanel’s Artistic Director of Fashion Collections, Virginie Viard, showed the House’s Métiers d’Art collection, entitled Chanel Paris – 31 Rue Cambon, in Paris at the start of December last year, little did she know how world events would take such a dramatic turn just weeks later. The setting of the show, which drew inspiration from Mademoiselle Chanel’s famous baroque apartment, proved uncannily prescient in hindsight.
Greeted with a replica of the coromandels that decorate the walls of the apartment, guests walked into a Grand Palais that was sectioned off to emulate the flat’s different chambers—almost as a foreshadow of the events that will see people being homebound for the next few months. Cosy sofas, faux fireplaces, laden bookshelves, gilded mirrors, crystal balls and chic ashtrays (Coco Chanel was, after all, a superstitious chain-smoker) studded the venue, which laid the stage for Viard’s ingenious explorative ideas. When a row of chandeliers descended from the hall’s 11m-high glass ceiling and the first model walked down the recreated steps of the apartment’s iconic Art Deco mirrored staircase, one couldn’t help but feel that the spirit of Chanel was well and truly alive.
Throwing open the doors to the House, Viard directed the attention to Chanel’s different metiers, or speciality ateliers, by showcasing the exquisite craftsmanship that has made and built each Chanel collection to date. In the artistic director’s deft hands, this latest Métiers d’Art collection drew strong parallels between the artisanal quality of the designs and the richly decorated interiors of the Chanel apartment—which has remained unchanged since the passing of the designer in 1971.
The majestic, glimmering crystal chandeliers, for example, found their counterparts in the stacks of crystal bangles and gilded bracelets that adorned the models’ wrists. The rows of leather-bound tomes that provided a decorative backdrop to the show were mirrored as dashes of maroon and Old World glamour—kept fresh with modern silhouettes and layers of richly textured details—in the collection.
Not many know that Coco Chanel never stayed a night of her life at 31 Rue Cambon (a suite in the nearby Ritz Paris served as her residence). Situated above her boutique and atelier, the apartment functioned as a private quarter to host lively parties and evening gatherings for her closest clients and confidantes. And Viard captured that beautiful gaiety in the collection wonderfully. Chanel house codes appeared in abundance and its love for monochrome was balanced with a healthy show of gold accents, while lively coral and colourful dip-dye techniques saturated the dresses and blouses.
The raison d’etre of the Métiers d’Art collection, the expertise of the artisans, was showcased with maximum flex. The House of Lognon lent its skill in the precision of the box pleats on soft chiffon skirts and silk tops. Embroidery studio Atelier Montex was responsible for the interesting details on the sashes and sleeves of wool coats in the show’s earlier exits, achieved through the use of the Lunéville crochet technique and its famous century-old Cornely embroidery machines—mechanical contraptions that need to be guided by hand. The House of Desrues, which has partnered with Chanel since 1965, crafted the buttons, jewellery, belt buckles and handbag clasps for the collection, while goldsmith Goossens created some of the coveted crystal bangles and gilded bracelets. As Viard explained: “The Métiers d’Art bring me their savoir faire. They make our creations sublime.”
Two of the main metiers, the House of Lesage and the House of Lemarié, were involved in the creation of a number of the collection’s sublime pieces. TheLesage atelier, with its own unique embroidery know-how, took charge of the evening line-up and proposed the amazing fine pearl and plexiglass embroidery for the range’s short dresses and lace toppers.
The Lemarié atelier, an important partner of Chanel that excels at encrustations, ruffes, sophisticated smocking and pleats, crafted the feather and flower appliqués that were so heavily featured in a few of the looks—as seen in the last five exits, for example. The dress worn by Anna Ewers and the skirt worn by Kaia Gerber were meticulously embellished with hand-applied, hand-brushed and hand-trimmed feathers courtesy of the skilled Lemarié artisans. Trompe l’oeil effects were heightened with an extra layer of tiny crystal and graffiti-like embroidery, which injected a youthful element into the collection.
It’s not easy to juggle the roles of a fashion designer, a skilled artisan and a tastemaker at a fashion house steeped in legacy left by Coco Chanel and Karl Lagerfeld. Yet, Virginie Viard managed to find the perfect mix of cool and chic by creating an o ering that was as beautiful to see as it was desirable for women to wear. More importantly, with this Chanel Paris – 31 Rue Cambon Métiers d’Art collection, Viard showed that she has made herself at home at Chanel.
From top: A replica of the iconic staircase in Coco Chanel’s 31 Rue Cambon apartment was the centre of attention at the Paris – 31 Rue Cambon show. A model wearing a lace dress and carrying the season’s collectible clutch
OPPOSITE: Layers of pleats and plissé showcased Atelier Lognon’s expertise
The classic Chanel jacket with a twist
Paillette embroidery on French lace in detail
An alliteration of silk bows punctuated with handcrafted camellias—the flower normally found on Chanel packaging
Backstage antics with Mona Tougaard, Gigi Hadid and Vittoria Ceretti
Kaia Gerber inan embroidered feather skirt prepped by the Lesage atelier, paired with a simple silk blouse evoking a haute version of a tee
A monochromatic palette with gilded hits dominated thecollection
"Look number 53 on the runway"
THE MAKING OF LOOK #53
Using a sample validated by the Studio, the silk tulle of the jacket was embroidered with 750 ears of plexiglass wheat, black velvet laser-cut dots and nearly 1,300 fine pearls at the Lesage atelier. The silk tulle dress was embroidered first with some 60,000 black sequins, over which more than 20,000 fine white pearls, as well as 44 ears of wheat created by the goldsmith Goossens, were added. The embroidering of the jacket and the dress was carried out using needlework and the Lunéville crochet hook, and took the Lesage atelier about 220 hours to complete.
After the embroidery process, the black silk tulle was then sent to the flou atelier so that the seamstresses could start assembling the jacket and the dress. During assembly, the outfit was tried on; the necessary finishing touches made; then pieced together.
The final fitting of the outfit and its accessorising took place in the Creation studio under the close observation of Virginie Viard and her team. The exceptional outfit was accessorised with earrings by the House of Goossens; a chain belt interlaced with leather and adorned with faux pearls, crafted by parurier (jewellery and accessory maker) Desrues; and bow-embellished black-and-gold pumps in leather and grosgrain, confected by shoemaker Massaro.
A multitude of details that combined the expertise of Lesage, Goossens and Desrues
"THE MÉTIERS D’ART BRING ME THEIR SAVOIR FAIRE. THEY MAKE OUR CREATIONS SUBLIME."
—CHANEL’S ARTISTIC DIRECTOR, VIRGINIE VIARD
PHOTOGRAPHY: ALIX MARNAT, BENOIT PEVERELLI