Main picturePhotograph by Matthieu Delbruve
It was undoubtedly Gabrielle Chanel herself who sowed the seeds of this Chanel now nicknames its âSatellitesâ – the specialist workshops, workshops and artisans devoted to the fashionable arts, recognized as embroidery and shoe making, and as esoteric as pleating and feathering. During Chanel’s time, these trades were flourishing: in Paris alone, there were some 800 plumassiers in the early 1900s, when Gabrielle Chanel founded her fashion house (originally as a hat business) . Today there are only a handful – Chanel LemariÃ© is the leader, producing couture dresses for them and other fashion houses, and thousands of camellias every year.
But back to Gabrielle, whose work has consistently supported young artisans, cajoling them and encouraging them to experiment. Count Fulco di Verdura designed jewelry for her in the 1930s; after her return in 1954, she was patron of a young goldsmith named Robert Goossens, whose house is now part of Chanel. The first to be absorbed into the fold of Chanel (no pun intended) was Desrues, a jewelry and accessories designer since 1936 whose handcrafted buttons were chosen by Chanel for her 1960s clothing. 1985, her Chanel property – slowly joined by a whole constellation of other artisans in an act of partly altruistic rescue of the craftsmanship that many saw as thrown in the trash of history, partly of clever conservation of the means to manufacture unique clothes. Twenty years ago, they began to be celebrated, every year, through Chanel’s MÃ©tiers d’Art collections and shows – a beautiful exercise in couture, each house showing off the extent of its know-how in a demonstration of know-how. an ever-inspiring one-upmanship to observe.
For Virginie Viard’s last MÃ©tiers d’Art – her third – we were taken to the new nerve center of the operation. Spanning 25,000 square meters, it is a building called le19M – after the 19th arrondissement of Paris where it is located – and “embroidered” with an abstract facade in white concrete resembling, in Viard’s eyes, the Chanel tweed threads imagined by its architect Rudy Ricciotti. Eye-catching but also practical, it is used to protect the rooms from the reflections of the sun. 600 people work there in multiple workshops – the embroiderers Lesage and Atelier Montex, the hatter Maison Michel, the plisseur Lognon, the shoemaker Massaro and the aforementioned Ateliers de Goossens and LemariÃ©. And a few hundred others gathered in a large atrium to attend the unveiling of the MÃ©tiers d’Art 2022 parade by Viard, the clothes marching with poetry under the workshops that made them by hand.
While Ricciotti’s building was inspired by the craftsmanship it houses, this process was reversed on the clothing, many of which featured literal embroideries of these abstract threads, with the architecture infiltrating the clothing by osmosis. There were also chic “scribbled” Chanel graffiti embroidered jackets and knitwear. “Metropolitan but sophisticated” was the terminology used by Viard to describe the mix, which fused couture elements with streetwear shapes and a laid back attitude, embroidery on loose knits and suits, looped satin ribbons on skirts. thin, high slits for easy movement. This blend is, of course, a hallmark of Viard’s predecessor and mentor, Karl Lagerfeld, a dynamic man who mixed leather jackets with Chanel ball gowns and first fused the house’s polished tweed with denim ( a look that reappeared, with vengeance, for this show). Then again, Gabrielle Chanel was also street-smart – jersey was the denim of the 1900s, its use in haute couture as outrageous as Chanel’s Lagerfelisms of the 1980s and 1990s.
These have become a part of Chanel’s indelible identity – denims, jerseys, tweeds, costume jewelry tangles, visual vocabularies and aesthetic perspectives shared by Viard, Lagerfeld and of course Chanel herself. But these satellites and their crafts are also part of modern Chanel make-up – clothes that translate the magic Lady Amanda Harlech once described to me as âthe impossibility of haute coutureâ in a ready-to-wear. exceptional wear. In short, to weave dreams.
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