Karl Lagerfeld, head designer and creative director of the House of Chanel, serves as ringmaster in a circus of fashion shows and presentations which occur annually like clockwork. These include haute couture, ready-to-wear, and a myriad of other new product unveilings, all of which come with the territory of being a luxury fashion brand in the 21st century. But there is one show, one moment in the fashion calendar, which is uniquely Chanel: Métiers d’Art.
The Chanel Métiers d’Art runway show and collection focuses solely on the amazing craftsmanship the brand is famous for, “semi-couture”, as Lagerfeld calls it (Condé Nast Traveler). It’s a celebratory showcase of the vast network of artisans with whom Chanel works around the world, such as Lesage and Lemarié, among others. This winter’s Métiers d’Art took place in Salzburg at Schloss Leopoldskron, after venturing to Edinburgh and Dallas in recent years.
Leopoldskron’s Rococo design served as the perfect setting for the collection inspired by different periods in Salzburg’s famed history. In addition to the very Austrian ornate embroideries, feathers, and trims, the collection had two definitive inspirations running throughout, the Empress Elisabeth “Sissi” of Austria and the jackets of elevator operators from The Mittersill Hotel frequented by Madame Chanel herself. It was a collection more personal to Lagerfeld and was romantic in many ways, truly a fairy tale come to life.
Just as the beauty was starting to fade in the minds of the Chanel audience, Lagerfeld took his collection to the streets of New York and introduced it to an entirely new audience, which saw New York’s Park Avenue Armory transformed into an 18th century palatial estate. The collection was the same, but the updated setting and new audience gave it a fresh incarnation. The night was topped off with a live performance by Pharrell Williams and model Cara Delevingne, who starred in the film about Chanel, “Reincarnation”. The film debuted the night before the original Métiers d’Art show in Salzburg and was a reimagining of Coco Chanel discovering the aforementioned elevator operator’s jacket in Salzburg for the first time.
So much more can be said about the wonderful premise behind this year’s Métiers d’Art collection and really the concept itself: A luxury fashion house takes the time to highlight the artisans who make Chanel Chanel, like a thank you to its past in a showcase of its future. What’s most intriguing here is that the House of Chanel and Lagerfeld himself took the time to showcase this collection twice: Two times on the calendar, and to a glittering American audience.
It’s certainly a marked first for Chanel’s Métiers d’Art. Is the American audience so integral to Chanel’s business that it was a must? Lagerfeld did say the early December timing of the first show was “was tricky for Americans” (Style.com).
Or did it just make sense because Americans are at the forefront of Chanel’s world at the moment? As noted above, Pharrell starred in the Chanel short film and also released the single “CC The World” to accompany it. One of Lagerfeld’s go-to models, Kendall Jenner, is American (and a member of the reality television family Kardashians). Even the newly minted Chanel brand ambassador Kristen Stewart is American.
Or is it something else entirely? Look at some of the night’s stand-out guests: actress Julianne Moore, fresh off her Academy Awards Best Actress win for “ Still Alice”, actress Dakota Johnson of “Fifty Shades of Gray” fame, global superstar Beyoncé, and most surprisingly, some would say, was Lily-Rose Depp. The daughter of American actor Johnny Depp and Chanel ambassador Vanessa Paradis does not regularly attend red carpets and the media went mad seeing her pose alongside her mother at the event. And let’s not forget to mention Pharrell, Kendall Jenner, and Cara Delevingne.
While it’s not uncommon to see most of these attendees (save for Ms. Depp) at a glittering fashion event, perhaps part of the reason Chanel brought them all together in New York was less about location and more about America’s fascination with celebrity in the media. Perhaps the same set-up and celebrity clientele wouldn’t get nearly as much coverage in less media-hungry parts of Europe: thus it only makes sense that the show be in the United States.
Or it’s a combination of all of these things that propelled Lagerfeld to showcase this stunning collection again for an American audience. We’ll have to wait ‘til next year to see if it happens again and then we’ll have our answer. Either way, this collection was worth being seen twice for the sole reason that this level of craftsmanship should be celebrated over and over again.