Eternal. Chanel Pre-Fall 2021

Virginie Viard‘s Chanel seems not to care about being “cool” or “relevant” – maybe that’s why her vision is often underrated and simply mistunderstood. Her Chanel is eternally… Chanel. And I think that’s why I learned to love it. This collection highlights the creative dialogue between Virginie Viard and the Maisons d’art, enhancing the creations of the house. This year, the Métiers d’art collection was held at the Château de Chenonceau, located in the Loire Valley and also known as Le Château des Dames. The show was nearly guest-less due to COVID-19 – there was only Kristen Stewart, the brand’s ambassador, in the audience (this had to be fun!). Le Château des Dames’s history is closely linked with the legendary women who alternately lived there: Katherine Briçonnet, Diane de Poitiers, Catherine de’ Medici, Louise de Lorraine, Gabrielle d’Estrées and Louise Dupin. In the second half of the 16th century, the queen of Italian origins, Catherine de’ Medici gave this residence the splendour of the Renaissance. As proof, numerous inscriptions of her monogram remain visible in the castle’s décor: two interlaced Cs that bear an astounding resemblance to the double C that Gabrielle Chanel presented as early as 1921 on the stopper of the N°5 perfume. Beyond the emblematic CC, echoes of the castle’s rich history meet the world of Chanel in the black-and-white hues of the tiling in the “Royal Gallery“, the appearance of the lion, Gabrielle Chanel’s beloved symbol, embroidered tapestries and in the ordered lines of the castle’s gardens. What about the collection? It’s pure elegance and craftsmanship, all created with the skills of Métiers d’art artisans: paruriers from Desrues, feathermakers from Lemarié, milliners from Maison Michel, embroiderers from Lesage and Atelier Montex, shoemakers from Massaro, goldsmiths from Goossens, glovemakers from Causse Gantier and pleaters from Lognon, in Paris and in France. The collection was a balance of princess style and something a bit darker. The chess board sequin miniskirts (and matching purses) worn over shiny lycra (or bejeweled stretch velvet) leggings, an amazing woven tweed ball skirt paired with a black sweater with Renaissance white flower motifs growing up the arms, capes, poet blouses, ruffled gauntlet gloves, and massaro’s D’Artagnan boots for a bit of 16th-century dress-up swagger. There’s a lot to love about this collection, especially seen through the lenses of Juergen Teller. Viard, as she explained, took inspiration from Lagerfeld’s fall 1983 trompe l’oeil “shower” collection for Chloé that featured embroidered faucets and showerheads spouting crystal water sprays. Her own playful trompe l’oeil, developed with the inventive embroidery house of Montex, reimagines the castle in Lego-like sequin bricks, used as cummerbund sashes that cinch the waists of full satin ball skirts worn with fragile organza blouses flourished with some of those Catherine de Medici–via–Coco Chanel ruffled collars. The chateau’s tapestries inspired intarsia knits and Lesage embroidered evening sweaters. Lemarie, meanwhile, famed for their feather and artificial flower work, are responsible for the trellis of black ribbons laid over translucent organza that evoke Chenonceau-era court dress with a light 2020 touch. That dialogue across the centuries is also expressed in the playful drama of a floor-length black velvet coat that opens to reveal a pale tweed body, gilt buttoned like a traditional Chanel jacket. Delightful.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

31 Rue Cambon. Chanel Pre-Fall 2020

Virginie Viard takes Chanel to its (at times clichée) codes. Viard titled her Métiers d’Art show “Paris 31 rue Cambon” for the street where Coco Chanel first set up shop as a milliner in 1910 (“Chanel Modes” at Number 21), and where she later expanded her fashion empire to embrace six additional 18th-century buildings, with her legendary haute couture salons at Number 31. The guests sat inside of Coco’s legendary apartment, XXL-scaled and set up in Grand Palais (there was even the famous mirrored staircase). “I adore the apartment,” Viard said backstage, and she evidently found inspiration in this setting where Chanel retreated from the running of her house and entertained friends. The designer described the collection as “the things we like, a mix of Karl and Chanel—the codes.” Of course, comparing to Lagerfeld’s globe-trotting Méters d’Art fairy-tales – think Moscow, Edinburgh, Texas, the Met in New York – seeing Viard show in Paris felt quite unamusing. Nevertheless, the collection was properly Chanel – elegant, refined, refreshingly minimal, yet far from modesty. The pre-fall collections of Chanel showcase the incredible work of the luxury suppliers of the fashion industry – embroiderers, feather and artificial flower makers, milliners, custom shoemakers – many of which Chanel has acquired to keep them operational and the skills alive. Viard, who directed the Chanel studio under Lagerfeld for decades, has a fine appreciation of what these ateliers are capable of. A bolero jacket with broad feathers overprinted with a shadowy pattern of Chanel’s iconic camellias; a feather blazer worked into a subtle trompe l’oeil plaid; eveningwear kept in the most gorgeous, sorbet ombré colour palette… delightful. Viard proves once again that her Chanel takes a slower approach, one that cherishes the timeless classics and the artisan work. Less Instagram moments, more beauty in the details.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Egypt in NYC. Chanel Pre-Fall 2019

Chanel‘s Métiers d’Art shows are the only ones I look at. I love the craftsmanship involved here – it’s different level comparing to the ridiculous ready-to-wear collections, but looks more wearable than in the couture outings. This time, Karl Lagerfeld took his guests to New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art to pull off an Ancient Egypt-inspired collection. To be honest, most of the clothes looked hideous and even the beauty of the surrounding tombstones and artifacts couldn’t hide this fact. BUT. Some of the details were impressive. The Amarna-inspired make-up. The gold-painted legs of every model. And the opulent appreciation of jewels and everything that’s shiny – a feature of every Egyptian king and queen. Would today’s Nefertiti dress in a Chanel tweed jacket made out of golden threads? Absolutely yes. But will real Chanel customers be able to wear any of this without looking ‘dressed up’ for a theme party? Who knows.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Paris – Rome. Chanel Pre-Fall’16


Staging a Chanel fashion show in Rome for Metiers d’Art collection (in other words, Pre-Fall 2016) wasn’t that clear at the first sight. However, Karl Lagerfeld had a very reasonable answer for his decision – only a few know that in the 50’s, Coco Chanel designed for the incredible, classy actresses like Jeanne Moreau, Anouk Aimée, Monica Vitti, and Romy Schneider, all of whom starred in Italian movies by Visconti and Pasolini wearing her chic tweeds and dresses. As you might know, I was recently very skeptic about Karl’s last few collections for the legendary Parisian house – the glossy, Cara Delevigne-packed model squad and Instagram-moment venues made Chanel a brand which rather looked towards media, than the clothes. However, this time, Karl showed a graceful collection, which was fully focused on the clothes. The serene, moody setting of an Italian cinema was a perfect background for the film noir lace dresses, masculine coats, leather “pasta” embroideries (this part makes me love Lessage studio even more – they made my favourite farfalle look absolutely great on a dress!) and sultry, leather pencil skirts and jackets. What caught everybody’s attention were the lace tights. They had a femme fatale atitude when worn with pointy Mary-Janes pumps. So Italian. So on point with the deliberately sexy and elusive theme of the entire collection. The hair, done by Sam McKnight, was all about messy beehives and the girls, with their smoky eyes, looked effortlessly glamorous, just like the icons of Italian cinema. Also, the model casting was just the right choice – the designer mixed the catwalk veterans, like Lara Stone and Freja Beha, with a diversity of newcomers – from Lineisy Montero, Molly Bair and Mica Arganaraz to Stella Lucia, Greta Varlese and Alexandra Elizabeth. You’re back on the good track, Karl!

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ca. 1960s, New York City, New York, USA --- French actress Anouk Aimee --- Image by © Condé Nast Archive/Corbis


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Salzburg. Chanel Pre-Fall’15


The strongly anticipated Chanel metiers d’art collection for Pre-Fall 2015 is reavealed. In the heart of Schloss Leopoldskron, one of the most magnificient and historical places in Austria, the show was presented, keeping it between the border lines of Salzburg’s legacy and Karl Lagerfeld buzz. As you might guess, there were lots of embroideries, knits and embellishments which are not only typical for this region of Europe, but also for the metiers d’art tradition. First of all, Salzburg is the place where Coco Chanel found her first inspiration for the iconic little black jacket- just by seeing the lobby boy’s “outfit”. So, no wonder why we saw a lot of it here, in new colours and versions. Worn with sweat-pants (yes, in Austria), super opulent bags, feather trimmed hats and brogues, the clothes felt nostaligic with a fresh perspectve. Victorian turtlnecks and floral motives where here, too. Plus, the clothes for men reminded me more of waiters in Bavarian restaurant rather than Salzburg princes… Truly, I thought the collection will be much worse. But it wasn’t. It had a nice sense of humour, warm venue (not some kind of super-market) which was the Schloss library chamber. For a while I observed more deeply Karl Lagerfeld’s moves at Chanel and the outcome is- his Pre-Falls are better, than all the other collections. After Mumbai, Moscow, Edinbourgh, Dallas, Salzburg feels really fine- all of them are showing what metiers d’art is. And now, it’s time for Cracow in my opinion. The city’s charm would look great at Chanel’s next Pre-Fall…