STEEPED in a rich history of strong women, the Château de Chenonceau in the Loire Valley sets the scene for Chanel‘s Métiers d’art collection. Built at the beginning of the Renaissance era, and earning the nickname ‘Château des Dames’ (Castle of Ladies), it seemed like an obvious choice as location to hold the show according to Artistic Director Virginie Viard.
“It was designed and lived in by women, including Diane de Poitiers and Catherine de’Medici. It is a castle on a human scale”, explains Viard. “And Catherine de’ Medici’s emblem was a monogram composed of intertwined Cs, just like that of Chanel.”
We cannot be certain that Coco Chanel was inspired by this, however the founder and designer was fascinated by Renaissance women. Lace ruffs and jewellery aesthetics found in the early collections of the French fashion house illustrate her fascination with that time. The beauty and innocence of these women helped build up a brand that made women feel liberated and free in their clothing rather than refined. Taking a similar approach to Coco, Virginie is taking Chanel back to its roots.
The Château’s grand gallery was lit up and the 60 metres of black-and-white chequered floor became the runway of the final show of the year. The floor’s pattern became a strong theme throughout the collection: sequinned chessboard-esque mini skirts and skirts made from fringed tweed paired with a matching black-and-white knitted jumpers were clearly linked to this historic room.
The colour black played a main role in the collection due to its significance to Catherine de’Medici; who famously only wore black after the death of King Henri II. A notable piece that directly alluded to this part in history is a long coat made from black velvet that had a pale tweed suitbody underneath – potentially the perfect day-to-night outfit?
The well-known tapestries hanging on the walls were echoed onto tweed capes, while the gardens that surround the castle, originally created by Diane de Poitiers, were reimagined into delicate embroidery stitched onto the wide lapels of jackets. From this it is clear that not only did Chanel bring the empty castle to life, but the Château infused itself beautifully into the looks.
Bringing all 38 Maison d’Arts together to create this collection put craftsmanship and refined skills on a pedestal – and one few can compete with. Notable atelier looks of the Chanel collection were: a long black lace dress made by Lemairé, that was constructed by putting two lattices together with studs, and Lesage embroidered the top of a damask dress by hand.
Tapered black boots with fold-over cuffs, heels and the famous two-toned platform sandals are credit to Massaro. But more prominently, and very hard to miss, were the big black hats, designed and created by Maison Michel that referenced the 15th century conical headdresses – likely to have been worn in that very room by the aristocratic female guests.
Overall, the collection embodied Chanel and what Chanel stands for. It’s for women by women. But more importantly, in the ballroom of the Château, Chanel played their checkmate with this collection.
by Imogen Clark