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How Chanel's Métiers d’art ties the past and present together

For the 2022-23 show, creative head Virginie Viard celebrated the legacy of the label and Dakar

From the recent Chanel show in Dakar
From the recent Chanel show in Dakar (AFP)

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For the past few weeks, several designers have been showcasing their pre-fall collections, and one outing that has stood out is Chanel's annual Métiers d'art show. 

For the 2022-23 Métiers d’art collection, which was held in Dakar, creative head Virginie Viard celebrated the legacy of the label as well the region where the show was hosted. It underscored floral embroidery by Paris-based embroidery studio Atelier Montex, camellias crafted by flower-maker Lemarié, and pleating work by Lognon. Moreover, she entrusted filmmaker Ladj Ly and students from the Kourtrajmé school in Montfermeil and Dakar to produce a documentary series about the Métiers d’art show.

Also read: Chanel enters the 1970s for Senegal show

The show reflected how every Métiers d’art showcase is a bridge between the label's past and the present. 

Take the 2022-23 Métiers d’art show, for instance. As part of promotions, the show included four videos that were filmed between the brand's Creation studio on Rue Cambon in Paris, cultural centre le19M located between Paris and Aubervilliers, and Dakar. They were made in collaboration with Viard, Ladj Ly and the Kourtrajmé Dakar school’s students. The school guides young Senegalese directors and scriptwriters by giving them access to artistic and technical training as well as the possibility of extending their professional network.

This collaboration comes across as a strong nod to the house's historic ties with cinema and its allegiance to supporting young talent. In 1961, Gabrielle Chanel had created costumes for Delphine Seyrig in Alain Renais' Last Year At Marienbad. Over the years, her black chiffons went on to become silver screen legends. Also, she was known to support and nurture young cine artists, for example, in the early 30s, she introduced Jean Renoir to Luchino Visconti, who would become his assistant director for several films. With an unsparing eye for spotting talent, she had hired filmmaker Robert Bresson to photograph her fine jewellery designs. As they say, history repeats itself. And the Chanel-Kourtrajmé Dakar school creative dialogue honours this history.

The collection's flared trousers, fitted coats, pronounced collars nodded in favour of the swinging seventies. Botanical motifs, geometric shapes, sequins and pendants lent it a maximalist, playful edge.

2022: Le 19M building devoted to workshops

Named after the arrondissement where it exists, Le19M was the venue of Chanel's Métiers d’art 2021 showcase (where heritage artisans, Lesage, Montex, Lemaire, Lognon, Goossens, Maison Michel and Massaro, are now based). Viard recreated the facade of the building on the tweed pockets of a coat that opened the show. Tweed cardigans with patch pockets, denim separates, glistening beaded floor-length cocktail coats and feathered separates evoked the brand's key insignias.

2021: Resurrecting Catherine de Medici

For the brand's Métiers d’art 2021 show, Viard had transported the viewer to the 16th century Château de Chenonceau (also known as Chateau des Femmes or the women's Castle) in the Loire valley in France. Catherine de Medici's (the king's Italy-born wife) monogram, the interlocking Cs similar to the Chanel logo could be seen throughout the chateau. The resemblance was uncanny and so was the symbolism of the historic locale. Viard emblazoned floral details inspired by the château's gardens on her ensembles and unveiled a long and lean noir coat, which could have easily belonged to the closet of Catherine de Médici after Henri II's demise.

2020: Recreating Coco's apartment

In her first Métiers d’Art show, Viard had recreated Chanel's legendary apartment at 31, Rue de Cambon, which is still preserved after her death in 1971. An artistic oasis of beige, black and gold with touches from Venice's Baroque churches, the house had an Art Deco-inspired staircase where her designs were originally presented. 

Each ensemble at the show reflected a heady mix of Chanel’s codes: the camellias (her favourite flower that she wore on lapels), the gilded lion (her star sign), and sheaves of wheat for inspiring good luck.

Also read: Chanel brings art decor to Paris


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