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Fashion

The Most OMG Moments At Chanel's Metiers d'Art Extravaganza In New York

Ready to gasp and be awestruck again and again?
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For all its roots in sensible, idiosyncratically French chic, the empire that is Chanel is synonymous with surprise and showmanship. This is most obvious with its runway displays, each an exercise in setting new records in making jaws drop — and this even before the era of Instagram. (Its most recent RTW show in October saw Paris’ Grand Palais transformed into a beach — nine years after it brought the fashion set to one in Venice, Italy for its Resort 2010 debut. And who can forget the Fall Winter 2017 RTW show that culminated in the launch of a customised rocket?) What it sells in stores is often no less astounding – from unexpected innovations like its 31 tote/clutch/crossbody bag, to jackets and evening gowns of which simple silhouettes belie their fanciful make. Besides at its biannual couture spectacles, the two can be said to come together best with the brand’s Metiers d’Art shows – held annually usually in December. The clothes and accessories sent down the catwalk are designed to best highlight the artisanal skills of the ateliers Chanel owns, but they are not considered couture — they hit the racks of the label’s boutiques around the middle of the year (which also explains why some think they form the pre-fall collection — they do not). And every edition is held in a city that holds some special connection to the house, complete with an equally dazzling itinerary. (For a crash course on what exactly the collection is about, read our guide here.) We know all this in part because we had the chance to attend the last two — the Paris collection in 2016 and the one in Hamburg last year – in person. Now here’s the thing about most Chanel experiences: You leave thinking Kaiser Karl and co have topped themselves and then you step into the next one to find yourself dumbfounded. Again. So, uh, you know where we’re going with this after our return from the brand’s Metiers d’Art outing in New York on Dec 4. Ladies and gentlemen, be ready to be impressed. The Metiers d'Art show returned to New York City – after 13 years
What could be more surprising to some is the very Empire State Of Mind connection between this quintessentially French luxury label and the Big Apple. As early as 1914 – just four years after Coco Chanel founded her maison – America caught onto her brand of practical chic and turned her into one of the earliest celebrity designers. Her first visit in 1931 reportedly made as much a splash as a royal’s (the picture above shows her on the trip, at her suite in The Pierre); Vanity Fair would nominate her for the Hall of Fame later that year for several reasons including going Stateside to “try and introduce chic to Hollywood.” She would be the only designer to win Neiman Marcus’s Fashion Award for Distinguished Service in the Field of Fashion in 1957 (usually more than one get the prize). Karl Lagerfeld has received the same enthusiastic fanfare from the city since taking the helm in 1982 and brought the Metiers d’Art show over for the first time in 2005. That same year, the Metropolitan Museum Of Art dedicated an exhibition to the brand that would last 13 weeks and draw 460,000 people. The notoriously plain speaking man reportedly once said: “In New York, I like the energy, the air, the people, the architecture, the confusion, the mix.” Yeah, the big lights will inspire you, let’s hear it for New York indeed. The runway set was an ancient Egyptian Temple exhibit at the Met
So let’s say you don’t think much of Chanel flying hundreds of cultural VIPs, top-spending customers and selected press into one of the world’s busiest and most expensive cities right at the start of winter to see one of its most important shows of the year. Now what if we told you that the show venue was at The Met (yes, Met Gala Met) with its centrepiece being one of the art institution’s most prized exhibits – so iconic, little else was needed for set-up save for adding seats for the Metiers d’Art show? Located in the Sackler Wing, the Temple of Dendur (above) is a sandstone temple measuring 25m long and 8m high, built along the west bank of the Nile River by the Roman governor of Egypt around 15 BC. Bequeathed to the US in 1965 for the country’s efforts in saving several monuments along Lake Nasser, it found a home at The Met after a long bidding war among the country’s top museums two years later and was lovingly installed. A reflecting pool in front is meant to mimic the Nile; a sloping wall behind it, cliffs in its original location; and the glass ceiling and wall diffuse light as if it were still in Nubia, Egypt. In short, pure drama that spoke to the art, architecture and antique-loving Karl Lagerfeld who also announced pre-show: “Egyptian civilisation has always fascinated me”. The show's star power was off the charts
Besides covering its usual coterie of ambassadors and friends that includes the likes of Gen Z It girl Lily Rose-Depp (above), Korean cool girl Soo Joo Park and I-wanna-be-his-girl Pharrell Williams, Chanel’s guest list for its shows is never short of celebrity heavyweights. (Remember the time we met G-Dragon or Tilda Swinton?) At the 2019 Metiers d’Art show, the list was not only particularly long (it’s New York after all – home to many of them), but also particularly glamorous; comprising of both of-the-moment up-and-comers and icons. Here’s who got our hearts beating fastest. The Gen Z starlets
Stranger Things badass/underrated redhead beauty Sadie Sink The Gen Z starlets
Disney star-turned-fashion star and activist Rowan Blanchard The non-Gen Z starlets
The ever genial (and increasingly fashion fabulous) Blake Lively The non-Gen Z starlets
Julianne Moore, one of the most intelligent and gripping actresses in American cinema The non-Gen Z starlets
Marion Cotillard, one of the most intelligent and gripping actresses in French cinema The OG supermodels
Christy Turlington, case study in how to age gracefully and as naturally as possible The OG supermodels
Helena Christensen, the ’90s answer to Kendall Jenner and Bella Hadid combined The music rebels
Janelle Monae, millennial answer to Grace Jones The music rebels
Cat Power, aka Charlyn Marie Chan Marshall; and the woman behind The Greatest, aka the indie clasic that anybody who is or wants to be arty puts onto their soundtrack to evoke immense heartbreak, including one Wong Kar Wai The music stars
Leah Dou – hyper cool, hyper mysterious singer-songwriter daughter of the equally charismatic Faye Wong. Let us repeat: Leah. Freakin. Dou. Made. An. Appearance. At. This. Chanel. Metiers. D’art. Show. Pharrell made an appearance down the runway
In a tight gold ribbed knit top and equally gender-ambiguous leather pants. The crowd went nuts with applause. Gold was unapologetically everywhere
The colour was said to be a favourite of Coco Chanel and with the Egyptian connection – what with the show being held at the Temple of Dendur exhibit at The Met – this Metiers d’Art collection  literally shone. Among the highlights: glamorous Massaro-made knee-high boots in a choice of smooth or embossed leather, complete with block heels encrusted in jewels Gold was unapologetically everywhere
For those with an experimental streak, why not try this look: airbrushing gold paint onto your legs to create the effect of tights? (Yup, these are not tights.) Gold was unapologetically everywhere
On OTT baubles that take after classic Egyptian motifs and would appeal to anyone with a penchant for vintage ’80s jewellery Possibly the most elaborate Metiers d'Art collection yet?
At press time we had little word on just how much work had gone into the runway pieces, but if what ancient Egyptians wore is anything to go by, this collection was the perfect showcase for gilded ornamentation. The flirty cocktail dress worn over the sinuous white tunic here, for example, is covered entirely in a shower of resin plastrons, glass casts, gold leaves and sequins by the embroider Montex. Possibly the most elaborate Metiers d'Art collection yet?
Dress or jewellery? You decide. Possibly the most elaborate Metiers d'Art collection yet?
The dress is lined with gold leaf; the necklace is a flat, ornately rhinestoned piece of chainmail inspired by both New York’s skyscrapers and classic frescoes Karl Lagerfeld managed to make "Egypt" look street
Street wear has become an increasingly prominent element in Chanel’s collections in recent years, in part because it helps to court the next generation of customers; the other because the world remains obsessed with it. To blend it into a Metiers d’Art collection is another thing altogether though, yet that’s what Karl Lagerfeld has done here seamlessly, throwing a shearling-trimmed denim jacket over an Egyptian-style wrap skirt. Karl Lagerfeld managed to make "Egypt" look street
Besides mixing denim into the collection, Karl Lagerfeld also enlisted graffiti artist Cyril Kongo to design not only the show invite and press kit cover, but also motifs that appear on jackets, bags, tees and dresses. A Keith Haring-esque take on Chanel’s classic symbols like the camellia and double “C” logo, the latter strangely – and very coolly – resemble Egyptian hieroglyphics (whether or not this was intentional, we don’t know). Says Karl of the collaboration: “New York, it’s an energy and a melting pot of cultures.” Karl Lagerfeld managed to make "Egypt" look street
A Chanel classic designed to look as if it had been spray-painted with graffiti – who wants to bet that this is going to sell out quick? Behold the beauty of the beetle
Or scarab rather, Karl Lagerfeld’s “ultimate” reference to ancient Egyptian civilisation. The work of the 70-year-old artisanal jewellery house Goossens using a mould created by its founder, the motif turns up on everything from cuffs to belt buckles to buttons. Behold the beauty of the beetle
A bag that redefines the term fashion bug