Chanel: Architectural manga in its latest Métiers d’Art show, opening 19M
An architectural twist for Chanel from its creative director Virginie Viard seen in the opening look, where the patch pockets on a black reefer coat mimicked the exterior of 19M, which architect Rudy Ricciotti had wrapped in giant white steel bands - a homage to fashion’s key element, thread.
Though the heart of the matter was always going to be extoling the rare qualities of the couture supply houses that are based in 19M, which houses some 600 craftspeople and creative talents.
Two embroiderers were the major stars of this show: Lesage, seen in clever colorful twists in one of Coco Chanel’s favorite objects - Coromandel screens; and Atelier Montex, with several remarkable silvery sleeves and metallic patterns. Often the chicest looks were the most straightforward – notably a thoroughly perfect ensemble on a clipped-haired model – a combination of armadillo-pleated short black full skirt, finished with a giant metallic double 'C', worn under a deep-gorge cardigan with three silver buttons.
With an icy wind whipping around 19M, located on the high ground of northwest Paris, literally on top of the city’s ring road, Viard also sent out charming, mega-cable cardigans, coats and culottes – in aubergine, plum and violet. All fitted out with bold Byzantine gold costume jewelry by Goossens, 19M’s jewelry marque. Even simple black pantsuits came accompanied by multiple chains and pearl necklaces; gold-tinted tin brooches of lion’s heads; mini bag baubles; chunky bracelets. Too much was never enough, even with the classic tweed Chanel suits that glistened with metallic thread.
“We wanted to highlight the skills of the great brands here in 19M, but with a more urban twist. I love the location. I adore coming here regularly. It’s a little like visiting one’s friends on the campus, like going to uni!” enthused Viard post-show inside the garden of the five-story triangular 19M.
Pre-show, the house released an animated video of a raven-haired model strolling through a magical world, where Chanel’s classic two-tone beige and black pumps are larger than humans, and Coco lookalikes shimmy down giant strands of pearls or step across tweed jackets, the size of the Giant’s Causeway.
Produced by production house Remembers, which created eight short avant-garde manga-style films featuring a model for each Métier. Fran Summers swings above giant feathers courtesy of Lesage; Mariam de Vinzelle stars in Le Manége aux Camélias, marching on giant flowers from Lemarié; and Lola Nicon is captured reflected in mirror-sized costume brooches courtesy of Desrues.
“I am soooo bored of mini videos of savoir-faire. So many people do them, and not just us. Like, how to sew a dress? Ohhh… But then I met Félix de Givry and Ugo Bienvenu of Remembers and decided we’d do some cartoons. Voila! I wanted a little sense of Cinderella, where the ladies who create couture suddenly go up! And they are in another world,” chuckled Viard.
Remarkably, given travel restrictions, this was an impressive cast that marched in the 59 looks. Though the star of the show turned out to be model/singer Soo Joo Park, who sang lustily on a small side stage to a front row that included Vanessa Paradis, Sofia Coppola, Marine Vacth, Elsa Zylberstein, Lucy Boynton, Inès de la Fressange, Blanca Li, Laura Bailey and Sébastien Tellier.
“The casting was not that easy. Frankly, there isn’t a single model in Paris these days due to Covid,” shrugged Viard.
Chanel also invited eight noted writers to visit 19M to celebrate the wealth and diversity of the Métiers d’Art in residence at this unique center, that opened in the spring. A continuation of the idea behind Chanel’s literary soirées on rue Cambon.
“We discover the marriage of passions. The union of diversity and time. The mastery of patience is the virtue that adorns 19M,” wrote rapper Abd al Malik, in a prose piece entitled 'Strolling Through 19M'.
While Anne Berest in an essay called 'Nomenclatura', extols a rare discovery in 19M. “The sewing machine named Weismann accomplishes a unique feat in the world, that of crafting a capeline from a single piece length of straw, by making it swirl on itself in the shape of the hat. This machine could have disappeared forever, if its last existing example had not been found and saved in extremis. Only two women know how to use it today. Let’s name them here, because their names are so pretty; Blanche and Noémie.”
Finally, in a brilliant move, Chanel even invited France’s greatest hip-hop artist, MC Solaar, who responded with a bravura rap:
"C’est à Paris que se situe le 19M
Déjà l’exo-structure rend cette architecture humaine les longs fils verticaux font signe à Lutèce l’Ancienne
Tout est dans l’équilibre… Dans l’alphabet… la lettre 'M'."
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