Sunday, May 18, 2008

Baroque meets punk rock

Beautiful embroidery and painstaking craftsmanship are the hallmarks of Chanel’s Métiers D’Art collection, which, this year, is presented as the Paris-Londres collection.

EVERY year, the House of Chanel presents a special collection dedicated to Métiers D’Art, or works of art. Feather makers, embroiderers and milliners and their craftsmanship and exceptional skills are a dying breed. To prevent their demise, Chanel bought five of these special houses dedicated to such crafts: Lemarié of fine feathers, trimming crafts from Desrues, shoe designer Massaro, milliner Maison Michel and the House of Lesage, world famous for exquisite embroidery.

While they contribute to Chanel’s couture collections, their work is also shown in the special yearly Métiers D’Art collections.

The very first, called Satellite Love, was unveiled in 2002. This year, the sixth edition is called Paris-Londres (London) and is supposed to echo “the tides that united England and Mademoiselle Chanel.”

(Mademoiselle had relationships with Boy Capel, an industrialist, and the Duke of Westminster, whose attire – such as hunting clothes, English tweed and military buttons – was a source of inspiration to her.)

The collection is certainly extraordinary, with lots of attention to detail in the embellishments and gorgeous decorative jewellery.

The collection is baroque style with punk rock accents, though on a delicate, romantic and refined scale.

There’s plenty of black – all the better to showcase the jewellery – ruching, trimmings, piped pleats and of course the signature camellia in startling red.

There’s a beautiful long tweed coat with frayed edgings reminiscent of Chanel’s iconic collections some years ago that had tweed jackets with frayed sleeves, but this one is supposed to hark to Mademoiselle’s era with “crudely-cut hems of the tweed and organza flounces.”

In terms of shapes, it has a bit of everything from bubble accents, volume in organza with flounces and also graceful silhouettes.

In keeping with the aim of showcasing handcrafted decorative work, some of the dresses have extraordinary decorative details that sparkle with coloured stones as well as what looks like bejewelled pins randomly attached to the dress.

You can’t help but marvel at the beauty of such a creation that turns a dress into a work of art.

And since it pays homage to England, the quirky element is found in the punk influences of graphic zippers, kilt pins, and even punk mittens of gilded metal lace.

As it is Chanel, accessories are of course, a major focus, with pocket books decorated with the Union Jack, exquisite and decorative small silver metal bags in different shapes, with one looking like a ball wrapped in chains. And the pièce de résistance? Light-bulb heels with a built-in battery!

Chanel’s artistic director Karl Lagerfeld, of course, has the perfect reason for this creation: “It’s a chic way to have your shoes shine – literally!” And who are we to argue with the man who has reinvented and redefined the House of Chanel?