Prêt-à-Porter Pre-Fall 2011:
Les Métiers d’Art de Chanel
Each year, Chanel dedicates a special collection to its Métiers d’Art , the seven artisanal ateliers the house purchased in 1997: Lemarié (feather specialist), Lesage (embroiderer), Desrues (costume jeweler), Massaro (shoemaker), Maison Michel (milliner), Goossens (goldsmith) and Guillet (floral accessory specialist). These collections typically celebrate a city that’s part of Chanel’s history–and this year the destination was Byzantium.
Held at the Haute Couture salon in the maison ’s iconic Rue Cambon store, the intimate show was the complete opposite of Chanel’s last extravaganza (staged in the vast Grand Palais). Only 136 guests were invited, including Vanessa Paradis, Diane Kruger, Inès de la Fressange, Clémence Poésy, Gaia Repossi and Vincent Darré, who mingled with a handful of journalists and close friends of the house.
The couture salon was transformed into a warm and glowing Ottoman palace tearoom, complete with low, stained-glass tables, mosaic floors, piles of hand-painted pillows and walls entirely clad in dark golden sequins.
From the beginning of the show, a spell was cast that summoned Karl Lagerfeld’s vision of a modern-day Theodora. He combined the opulence of another era with a new and modern feel: tweeds were woven with gold thread and accessories were strung with amazing glass beads, filigree gilt metal and precious stones. The models were literally dripping in gold chains, dangling earrings, stacks of bangles and heavily-embroidered pieces, yet each look seemed so beautiful, light and easy.
The collection was fascinating for being both comfortable and luxurious at the same time. Even the shoes reflected that theme: sparkling flat sandals with arabesque cut-outs alternated with thigh-high boots sprinkled with richly-colored glass beads.
Glittering peacoats, dazzling little black dresses, asymmetric floor-length robes, iconic suits encrusted with flashing stones and even velvety track pants looked jaw-droppingly chic, yet warm and real.
At the show’s end, André Leon Talley seemed just as wowed as I was. “This was the top of the pops,” he said. “Everything Karl does represents the highest end of creativity in our field. It’s a privilege to see a man who at one point can take a look at the Grand Palais and create a garden–and then a few months later give you a golden box of sequins and beautiful shimmering elegance. He’s a man of exceptional gifts and exceptional quality.”
One strong evening look was a plum satin dress with heavily beaded shoulders. As I was leaving the show, I heard Vanessa Paradis behind me repeating La robe violette, la robe violette! Apparently, Miss Paradis had paid close attention–perhaps with an eye to her next red carpet appearance?
– Nora Baldenweg
Runway photographs courtesy of Chanel; other photographs by Nora Baldenweg