On December 1st the annual Chanel Métiers d’Art runway show, hosted in Rome this season, highlighted a little-known fact that Coco Chanel was a costume designer for film directors Visconti and Pasolini, dressing some of Italy’s most popular 1950’s star actresses including Jeanne Moreau, Anouk Aimée, Monica Vitti, and Romy Schneider. This history was the idea behind the Chanel pre-fall 2016 collection.
The Métiers d’Art collection, also known as the pre-fall collection, is a showcase for the intricate handwork of Chanel’s specialist craft suppliers. Introduced by creative director Karl Lagerfeld in 2002 as a way to exalt the specialty couture ateliers Chanel owns, the annual collection ignites a pre-collection frenzy and has become one of the brand’s most important deliveries. The collection is delivered in May to all doors of Chanel, and top U.S. department stores, enjoying a long shelf life.
The event this year, centered around movies and moviemaking and sets and Paris and Rome, was staged for one night at the famed Cinecittà film studio No. 5. The set, all in sooty black-and-white, presented our ideal Paris complete with cheese shops, wine merchants, bakeries, an oyster bar and a cinema. Karl Lagerfeld spoke to the press about the set and the collection stating “it is just an idea, a dream, of Paris. We need to keep dreaming, because the reality in Paris is bleak. And that is not funny.”
Karl’s cinematic roots created fashion fireworks for Chanel — and at a tender moment for the French capital, still heightened following the Nov. 13 terror attacks.
“I didn’t know when we started the idea of Paris in Rome that it would be the best moment to show a perfect, romantic Paris when Paris today in reality is the opposite of a romantic city,” Lagerfeld said during a preview of his latest Métiers d’Art collection. “It’s really unbelievable, no?”
With their long hair teased into messy demi-beehives by Sam McKnight, the girls slouched one by one out of a fake Paris Metro station, some of them wearing long jackets shrugged over long, lace-covered legs, others in black ciré pencil skirts and patent raincoats, one in a quilted leather suit.
There were metallic embroideries and pleating on caped shapes, delicate faggoting techniques on slip dresses, and, at one point, an ovoid, coral pink–petaled dress that seemed to nod in the direction of the couturiers of Rome.
Lagerfeld also paid homage to other kinds of Parisians, from gamines in schoolgirl tweeds and Timberland-style boots to more bourgeois types with white collars and cuffs. The collection culminated with lace dresses as delicate as negligees and flecked with dark purple ostrich feathers.