A first-ever look inside the French luxury house’s legendary haute ateliers. Karl Lagerfeld is a man of many layers. For his recent runway show in Paris, the Chanel designer sent out models in apocalyptic grunge: sheer jumpsuits, layered knits over skinny jeans, slouched moto boots.
While not the most obvious aesthetic for a French luxury house steeped in bouclé and pearls, the collection was unmistakably Chanel. Underneath the smoke and distressed fashion, there were plenty of tweed skirt suits and black camellias. Over a nine-year period, the company bought seven of the most specialized ateliers in Paris, many in operation for more than 150 years, ensuring both the survival of a dying industry and the continuation of the house’s own couture techniques. Chanel’s commitment to the preservation of this craft is so strong that select other brands, like Christian Dior and Louis Vuitton, are still allowed to use the workshops.
To mark the occasion, Chanel launched Métiers d’Art in 2002—a luxurious collection, presented in a different international city each year. The line highlights the ateliers’ remarkable skill, the kind typically reserved for the few haute-couture clients left in the world.
Chanel – Paris FW 2011