When Kaiser Karl brought the tomb of Nefertiti onto a New York runway, guests were treated to a splendid, shimmering spectacle. Kenneth Goh was in the Big Apple to witness this Chanel extravaganza.

Portrait of Tammy Strobel

When Kaiser Karl brought the tomb of Nefertiti onto a New York runway, guests were treated to a splendid, shimmering spectacle. Kenneth Goh was in the Big Apple to witness this Chanel extravaganza.

Tweed jacket with shoulder panel; rhinestone shoulder-duster earrings; rhinestone bib necklace, Chanel. All clothing and accessories worn throughout the shoot are from the Chanel métiers d’art collection

If there’s any observation to be made, it would be that no one would have imagined the grand setting of the Temple of Dendur from 10 BC (within the stupendous surrounds of The Met in New York) to be the backdrop to Karl’s last métiers d’art collection. The Creative Director of Chanel had been doing this pre-fall, demi-couture collection for over 16 years—a collection that utilises 26 couture ateliers, including some of the world’s best shoemakers, jewellers, embroiderers and milliners. It must have felt, in some way, that he would have gone on forever. 

Having staged the collections all over the world, from Salzburg to Dallas to Hamburg, it seemed right that Karl brought it back to New York. Coco Chanel reportedly first visited the Big Apple in 1931 and stayed at The Pierre hotel, which is just a stone’s throw from the Met. Both the city and the designer were famously enamoured with one other, a love affair that continues till today. Perhaps it is the knowledge that Karl staged this as a tribute to Coco that gave this show that special feeling. Hundreds of customers arriving at the show—many bedecked in couture, mixing archival Chanel with the latest runway offerings that continue to seal their VVIP status as front row guests—all contributed to that frisson of anticipation. 

And indeed, after witnessing this extravaganza, I would say this collection was one of Karl’s best. Employing the most accomplished métiers d’art to recreate a luxurious world peopled with pharaohs and queens today is no mean feat. Think metres of pure, bright gold, layers of extravagant ornamentation and outrageous, oversized jewellery on collars, cuffs and necklaces piled one on top of the other in a blaze of coloured stones and pearls. Every single look would have earned a nod of approval from Queen Nefititi herself. 

My Reading Room

Intarsia knit top; tweed skirt; rhinestone shoulder-duster earrings

This was apparent from the first few looks that appeared on the runway. The large tweed boxy jackets flecked with gold and the matching skirts that looked like shendyts (wraparound skirts worn by men in ancient Egypt) indicated that this show was going to be unlike any other we had witnessed—a perfect marriage of hieroglyphic style and French pizzazz. What stood out most were the long, lean gauzy dresses that mimicked the kalasiris (traditional Egyptian sheaths) that Nefertiti and her ladies-in-waiting had worn back in their day. As an extra sheer layer beneath skirt suits and knee-length dresses, they looked beautifully elegant and added an alluring softness to the collection to contrast with all the tweed, gold and jewels. 

Supersized Art Deco scarabs appeared as jewelled embellishment on evening minaudieres, while alligator and python effects were stamped in gold on boots, jeans, bibs and belts. (Chanel had declared before the show that they would no longer be producing fashion that used real exotic skins, like snake, alligator, crocodile or stingray.)

My Reading Room

Tweed oversize jacket; tweed and metallic leather skirt; rhinestone logo choker; bead bib necklace; metallic leather boots.

As is the case for any successful fashion House, the clothes didn’t just hark back to the past, but also looked to the future and Karl made sure he had more than enough streetwear offerings to please his Gen Z fans. Biker jackets, bum bags, denim and Cyril Kongo-painted graffiti dresses gave an edge to the collection, while the epitome of the past-meets-the-future was embodied by hip-hop star Pharrell Williams or “Pharaoh Williams”. The music maestro was a stunning incarnation of the Boy King as he walked the runway in shimmering jeans, gold knits, a jewel-encrusted bib and gold-flecked eye liner. 

It was notable that amidst the evocations of Nefertiti, pharaohs and the exoticism of ancient Egypt, amidst all the golden pomp and jewelled pageantry, the collection still retained the very strong spirit of the brand—long-line tweed jackets, boater hats, feminine dresses and knits.

And that in hindsight is the essence behind all that beauty. The House that Coco built will always be Chanel. Even Nefertiti could never dethrone Coco from the golden throne.

See Where to Buy for details

Photographed by Gan

Styled by Windy Aulia

Model: Elle de Vries/Mannequin

Hair and makeup: Marc Teng using Sebastian Professional and Chanel 

Manicure: Audrey Wee

Assistant stylist: Gracia Phang

Styling assistants: Rachel Ho, Jasmine Chua