Chanel unveils a new complex for its popular suppliers to the Crafts

Chanel’s 20th Métiers d’Art show took place inside the brand’s glass and concrete campus known as 19M in Paris © Gary Schermann

On a rainy Tuesday afternoon in the northern suburbs of Paris, some 360 ​​journalists, clients and a handful of celebrities gathered at 19M, the 25,000m² concrete and glass campus that Chanel recently erected to house 11 of its popular suppliers.

The crowd had gathered for the 20th Chanel Métiers d’Art parade, an annual celebration of French craftsmanship that is usually held overseas, lavishly, for a wider audience. This time, before the show, guests were invited to discover the know-how in the workshops of its suppliers, including the embroiderer Montex, the feather and flower specialist Lemarié and the pleating virtuoso Lognon.

Installed on former circus grounds and referencing both Coco Chanel’s date of birth on August 19, 1883 and the 19th arrondissement, 19M was designed by architect Rudy Ricciotti to resemble strips of woven fabric, with thread-like concrete pillars lining the floor-to-ceiling windows on each level.

Inside, the workshops were polished and industrial. Six hundred or so artisans, some in worn blouses and white Apple headphones, others in Chanel, moved between tables and steel machines. On a floor housing goldsmith Goossens, a young woman showed Pharrell Williams, in a velvet jacket, how she colored and baked the coin-sized watermelon cabochons adorning necklaces, bracelets, and jewels. earrings from the collection.

Designed by architect Rudy Ricciotti, 19M is home to 11 of Chanel’s suppliers

On another, French model and longtime Chanel ambassador Caroline de Maigret showcased Montex embroiderers who sewed silver floral sequins onto black velvet panels that would later adorn the house’s iconic flap bags. One pointed out the crystal embroidery on an exceptional blue tweed jacket that a client was wearing: “We made it here,” she said.

Without Chanel, it is possible that these guardians of French know-how are no longer there. The late Karl Lagerfeld is credited with urging the owners of Chanel in 1985 to take over the small workshops specializing in traditional sewing techniques, some of which had supplied French fashion houses since the 1800s (suppliers do not work not exclusively for Chanel).

A year ago, Chanel owned a dozen of these workshops; It now has 40 companies within its supply chain, part of a $ 1.1 billion investment in technology, real estate and suppliers that France’s second-largest luxury house has made. ‘last year. Its most recent addition, in August, is the Italian knitwear company Paima.

Artistic Director Virginie Viard called the collection “very metropolitan but sophisticated”. . .

. . . featuring models wearing elegant tweed coats, two-tone Mary Janes and layered necklaces and belts

“We will continue to invest. . . to make sure that in 20 years we can get the best product, ”said Bruno Pavlovsky, fashion president of Chanel, in a pre-show interview. Chanel has increased the prices of handbags and other flagship items several times over the past two years, due to rising raw material costs, shrinking production capacity and strong demand for retailers. clients.

Raw materials such as wool, cashmere and silk “are getting more and more difficult for us, if you want to have the best quality and just enough [material]Pavlovsky said of the acquisition strategy. “We have to participate and invest if we are to continue to exist. “

Another challenge for Chanel, and for other luxury goods makers, is recruiting young talent to work in the manufacturing process – and shiny new ateliers like Chanel’s 19M and Gucci’s ArtLab are part of. this recruitment campaign.

Pavlovsky is keen to point out that many of the 600 specialists employed in the new compound are in their twenties, trained not only in traditional sewing techniques, but also in 3D printing and design. “When you talk about workshops, you imagine the workshops of yesterday – but in fact these are the workshops of today and tomorrow.”

Chanel has not been immune from the ills of the pandemic; sales fell 18% to $ 10.1 billion in 2020. In his last interview with the FT in October, Pavlovsky was optimistic about the recovery in travel and the luxury outlook for 2022. Does he still feel also positive? “We can be optimistic but we have to be realistic,” he replies. “The [Covid-19] the situation is far from being resolved. Right now we are facing a lot of new travel restrictions, ”he continues, adding that Chanel remains focused on cultivating local customers instead of tourists.

Square jackets and pleated tapered pants gave the collection a nostalgic 80s touch. . .

. . . while pockets have been designed into everything including macrame coats, dresses and pencil skirts

Pavlovsky is optimistic about the prospects for Creative Director Virginie Viard’s latest Métiers d’Art show. Last year’s collection, released online, with no audiences, had a sales record of over 90%, Pavlovsky said. “This is the 20th Métiers collection, so we hope it will be superior to the 19th. “

Unlike past exhibits, the 2021 exhibit was a stripped-down affair, held in a pale polished concrete gallery inside the complex. Models slipped between the guests in clothes too loaded with belts and jewels but which nevertheless managed to a certain ease. There were thin and elegant coats of wool and tweed, including one with pockets embroidered to reflect the lines of the building; thick woven cardigans that hung like college jackets; and wide-cut bleached jeans with slightly ruffled hems on Chanel’s iconic two-tone Mary Janes, their chunky heels dressed in pearls. There was a nostalgic ’80s feel to the boxy jackets and tapered pleated pants, and a younger, Y2K cast for the low pants and skirts, some revealing tummy length.

It is clear that Viard thinks that clothes should be useful as well as decorative; pockets were designed into everything – coats, dresses, even the front of macrame pencil skirts. In his performance notes, Viard described the collection as “very metropolitan but sophisticated”.

Despite Chanel’s commitment to striving for the best of everything, not all of the company’s products have been up to par in recent times. Over the weekend, a video of the brand’s $ 825 beauty Advent calendar went viral on TikTok after an influencer ridiculed it for being full of cheap goods such as stickers, an empty dust bag, and a keychain that would have been part of a previous giveaway with purchase.

Pavlovsky said the calendar was designed to be “sustainable”.

“Maybe we made a mistake, I don’t know, but we take it very seriously at Chanel,” he said. “I hope [the collection] will come with better comments.

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