Every December since 2002, Chanel has presented a Metiers d’art collection. (Yes, this means that the latest – revealed six months ago – marks the 20th edition.) It’s the annual showcase/bonanza/tribute to the all-important esoteric craft ateliers that orbit the French luxury maison. (Karl Lagerfeld even used to refer to them as satellites).
The 2021/2022 collection, which launches at boutiques towards the end of June, marks a new chapter: It’s inspired by and was shown in the new Le19M hub that Chanel has purpose-built as a centralised home for 11 of its most crucial suppliers.
Le19M is situated in northern Paris and designed by architect Rudy Riccioti.
It’s the first time that the brand has brought together the artisan workshops it owns – previously scattered across and around Paris – in such a meaningful and permanent way. Located in the Northeastern Aubervilliers region of the French capital, Le19M was even designed to bring to mind woven textile by the architect Rudy Riccioti with concrete “threads” girding its facade, creating a sophisticated exoskeleton that also offers protection from the sun.
The exoskeleton of Le19M’s facade is a motif interpreted in some of the designs of the Metiers d’Art collection this year.
The 25,500sq m state-of-the-art-complex is now HQ to 600 workers from ateliers that contribute embroidery, plumasserie, pleating, textiles, hats, jewellery and shoes – discrete components signature to the look and feel of Chanel.
The musician/style icon Pharrell exploring the workroom of the costume jeweller Goossens, which has been working with Chanel since the ’50s after Coco Chanel had commissioned its founder to create a piece for her.
Coco Chanel was one of the first designers to popularise costume jewellery, mixing fine jewellery crafted from previous materials with ostentatiously large statement baubles. A major influencer on this aspect was Robert Goossens – the jewellery and founder of the atelier of the same name – whom she had first met in 1954. Together, they developed a style of costume jewellery that richly referenced Byzantine and antique designs that have since become part of the Chanel lexicon.
Ropes of glass pearls and sculpted lions that reference Mademoiselle Chanel’s Leo star sign are some of the quintessentially Chanel emblems that made it to the Metiers d’Art costume jewellery this season.
In the brand’s 2021/2022 Metiers d’Art collection, Goossens celebrates this individualistic approach with ornate pieces that draw from a host of house icons: ropes of glass pearls; sculpted lions that reference Mademoiselle Chanel’s astrological sign; motifs like leather-laced chains and medallions gleaned from the handbags; and Maltese crosses with pink stones that echo the pastel palette of the ready-to-wear. Wear them as one pleases, which – going by the runway show – means layering multiple all at once.
Chanel’s millinery goes back to its founder’s roots as a hat maker.
Maison Michel is the only hatmaker at Le19M and important to the heritage of Chanel because Coco herself had begun her career as a milliner. Founded in 1936, it not only distributes and retails its own collections, but is also the go-to choice among the industry’s top couture houses. (Chanel acquired it in 1997, but like all the metiers d’art the brand owns, it operates independently.)
The French musician Sebastien Tellier is almost never seen without a hat or cap. That perhaps makes him the right man to explore the millinery techniques of Maison Michel.
It’s a legacy that Virginie Viard builds on, making use of Maison Michel’s traditional methods that see hats still shaped on linden wood blocks carved specially for each design, and draped and decorated entirely by hand. This season features two understated styles: a boater in embroidered tweed and a wide-brimmed Panama hat with a laced-chain chin strap.
The two-toned heels are among the most iconic Chanel shoes.
The shoemaker Massaro is behind Chanel’s most famous footwear design: the two-tone beige and black pump. It debuted in 1957 and Massaro’s ingenuity in adding elastic leather slingback strap to it worked in tandem with Coco Chanel’s ethos of comfort and ease.
“It’s all about patience,” says French rapper, writer and filmmaker Abd Al Malik during his visit to Massaro’s workshop at Le19M. He’s referring to the roughly 40 hours of work that goes into each pair of women’s shoes that the atelier makes – every side is shaped around hand-carved wooden lasts and given time to set and take shape.
French rapper, writer and filmmaker Abd Al Malik explores the Massaro workshop where shoe dreams are born.
The sophisticated metropolitan energy of Chanel’s 2021/2022 Metiers d’Art collection comes through in a Mary Jane update of those signature two-tones with shiny leather uppers, architectural block heels and a row of pearls lining the top of the latter.