After Dallas, Salzburg and last year's show in Rome, Chanel returned to Paris to present this year’s Métiers d’Art collection. The recently re-opened Ritz Paris, a hotel dear to Mademoiselle Gabrielle "Coco" Chanel – who occupied a 3rd floor suite in the famed hotel for more than 37 years – played host to the house's show on Tuesday evening.
As for what – exactly – the Métiers d’Art collection is, put simply: It is an annual collection and runway show produced by Chanel creative director, Karl Lagerfeld, usually on location away from Chanel's Paris-based headquarters.
Any other house would likely label this specific seasonal collection as a Pre-Fall one in line with the mini-season that occurs between the Fall/Winter and Spring/Summer shows and starts rolling out in November by way of intimate press shows (with a few exceptions, of course) and the release of lookbooks of small-scale collections on Vogue. However, this is Chanel. So, all bets are off and the appropriate title is, thus, Métiers d’Art.
Aside from the name, there are a number of other distinctions at play here. Chanel's collection, for instance, differs quite a bit from others' Pre-Fall and Pre-Spring offerings, in terms of size and substance. As previously noted, most brands show smaller collections for Pre-Fall and Pre-Spring/Resort (Rosetta Getty, for instance, showed 24 looks for Pre-Fall 2017 and Carolina Herrera showed 28). Chanel routinely opts to show upwards of 60 or so looks. This season Karl Lagerfeld showed nearly 70 looks. To be fair, that is less than his usual 80+ looks for Spring/Summer and Fall/Winter.
Chanel’s Métiers d’Art collection also ups the ante in terms of the sophistication of the garments. Most brands’ pre-season collections serve as commercially viable in-between collections aimed at boosting sales, and thus, come in the form of safe, sellable garments. As Dries Van Noten aptly stated not too long ago, "For most designers the pre-collection is their commercial collection – it’s what they sell. Then they make a ‘fashion show collection’ that is useful in terms of image and gets them attention in the press. The equation, in terms of sales, is usually 75% pre-collection and 25% fashion show collection."
Chanel’s Métiers d’Art collection boasts no such commercially-minded norms.
Chanel's Eleven Maisons
The collection is what Paris-based Chanel calls a celebration of the rich craftsmanship of its eleven ateliers, including the famed embroiderer, Lesage; milliner Maison Michel; and glove maker, Causse, among others, which are highlighted below ...
Barrie Knitwear: The Scottish knitwear house was founded more than 140 years ago and initially produced sweaters for the British army during the two world wars, before going on to become a favorite supplier to the biggest names in couture in the 1950's and 1960's.
Desrues: The 100+ year-old fine jewelry maker and accessory producer has been under the Chanel umbrella since 1985. Since then, Karl Lagerfeld and around 100 employees have worked to maintain the high level of craftsmanship and artistry established by Desrues. The result is an estimated daily output of 4,000 buttons and eight annual jewelry collections, each made up of 100 finely crafted pieces.
Goossens: The celebrated jeweler and goldsmith began working with Coco Chanel in the 1950’s when she selected the maison to be Chanel's official supplier. As one of the greatest jewelers and goldsmiths in Paris, Robert Goossens – the company’s founder – created pieces in silver and gold-plated bronze, featuring semi-precious stones, quartz and cultured pearls for the French house. Today, the maison is under the direction of Patrick Goossens, son of Goossens' founder and has been one of the 11 ateliers of Chanel's Métiers d’Art since 2005.
Guillet: A master corsage-maker since 1896, Guillet re-imagines daisies, forget-me-nots, jasmine, roses, lilies of the valley and gerberas as hairpieces, tiaras and crowns for the industry's most prominent couture houses, including Chanel.
Lemarié: Chanel has been working with this famed feather-maker since Coco Chanel was at the helm of the house and added the now-iconic flowers to Chanel's portfolio. It was not long after the two parties began collaborating that Coco Chanel sent Lemarié an order to create a fabric camellia for a collection and the rest, as they say, is history. Today, the camellia with its 16-petal design is widely recognized as the floral symbol of the Chanel house and continues to be invented and reinvented by Lemarié's craftsmen.
Lognon: Specializing in fabric pleating since 1945, Lognon has a unique expertise that combines hand-crafting with work in cardboard and steam-setting to create perfect pleats. Directed by Gerard Lognon for the past 68+ years, the French company joined Chanel's Métiers d’Art in 2013 in "a natural collaborative step for both houses."
Massaro: A bootmaker launched in 1894, Massaro is credited with creating the very first beige and black captoe Chanel shoe, which become a Chanel signature and larger sartorial classic. Per Vogue, "While fashions of the time had women walking in vertiginous stiletto heels, Massaro and Chanel broke with convention, offering soft beige leather shoe with a 6cm heel that gave wearers unprecedented elegance coupled with freedom of movement." In 2002, Massaro joined the Métiers d’Art family and as such, continues to create everything from classic heels to statement-making PVC shoes, cork-soled sandals and thigh-high boots.
Maison Michel: First established in 1936, Maison Michel rose to success in the 1970's, when milliners Pierre and Claudine Debard took the helm. Designers of hats and other hair accessories, they sparked a whole new generation of milliners who went on to work for Dior, Givenchy, Yves Saint Laurent and later, Chanel. In 1997, Maison Michel became one of Chanel's first Métiers d'Art subsidiaries.
Montex: A specialist in tambour or Lunéville beading – a technique in which a hooked needle is used to thread beads, galons, sequins and other materials onto single chain stitches after fabric has been pre-pierced with a cornely – Montex was founded in 1939 and serves as a partner for major couture houses, including Chanel.
The Art of Métiers d’Art
With this level of skill in mind, the Métiers d’Art garments and accessories tend to be quite lavish (far more so than the average pre-season collection), and the backdrop – well, that often speaks for itself. Since the first Métiers collection debuted in 2002, it has been presented in such memorable scenarios as a Dallas, Texas rodeo, a castle in Austria, another castle in Scotland, a makeshift street in Rome, etc.
Of this annual offering, Lagerfeld has said: "For the Métiers d’Art collection, a lot of people imagine it’s very heavy but for me it’s the absolute opposite – it’s something very light and happy.”
Last winter, the Paris-Salzburg Métiers d’art collection was staged at Schloss Leopoldskron castle in Salzburg, Austria. No small-time affair, Lagerfeld presented 80-plus looks on models including Stella Tennant and Kendall Jenner to fashion industry insiders flown in from all over the wold.