Chanel in Chenonceau to present its Métiers d’Art collection
Catherine de' Medici and Coco Chanel met at Chenonceau on Thursday night, the two queens practically embracing figuratively, though on a runway and not at a coronation, in Chanel’s latest Métiers d’Art collection.
Presented inside the most famous chateau in the Loire Valley, Chenonceau, it proved to be a blending of Coco Chanel’s classy allure and Catherine de' Medici’s unquestioned authority.
Due to the pandemic, the show was staged without a live audience inside Chenonceau, a particularly fine mock-Gothic-meets-high-Renaissance chateau built as bridge spanning the river Cher, a tributary of the Loire.
Without any guest, the cast of some 50 models were able to take up the full volume of the long narrow main gallery, marching across the black and white checkered marble floors.
At least half of the collection was in black, the only color that Catherine wore after the death of her husband King Henry II in a joust in 1559. That led to her becoming the only woman ever to rule France, in a regency that spanned over three decades, despite the fact that three of her sons would become kings of France.
Her de' Medici fondness for lattice-work tops; layered anthracite capes; voluminous dresses and cock feathers were all given free rein in this impressive collection. Two powerful contemporary female icons opened and closed the show. At the finale Coco’s latest successor Virginie Viard, taking one of her quiet bows in sailor pants and a zippered-up cardigan; and a real live Queen of Hollywood, Kristen Stewart, also all in black, in studded gaucho pants, neat sweater and Coco’s signature multi-strand pearl necklace with attached carnation.
Viard is such a skilled master of her atelier, she managed to whip up waxy leather biker jackets with crystal sleeves and pearl collars that could look good on a 16th-century courtesan or Californian red carpet.
Chanel was always rather obsessed with de' Medici, admiring her power, strength of will and fact that, like Coco, Catherine was an orphan. Within a month of her birth both Catherine’s parents had both died. Though Coco’s in-laws were very modest market traders, Catherine could boast that her great uncle was Pope Leo X.
King Henry II husband actually gave Chenonceau to his long-time mistress Diane de Poiters, but after his tragic death, Catherine evicted her rival and made the chateau her favorite home. Something of a risqué lover was apparent too in the collection’s leggings, worn with elongated frock coats and classic Chanel four-pocket jackets. And even more so in multiple hot-pants, especially the racy one-piece hot-pant and classic jackets.
Hair worn loose and shaggy and with many manes finished in shards of pearls worn like Hasidic peyots. One suspects that Diane would have enjoyed this collection just as much as Catherine. Though, of course, the Italian-born royal would have been happier with the use of the classic double-'C' logo. Uncannily, the queen’s intertwining emblem – seen on the exterior of the chateau - is almost exactly the same as that of the fashion house. Though, being blue blood, de' Medici did top her insignia with a crown.
The collection marked the 19th edition of Métiers d’Art, a unique fashion concept developed by the late Karl Lagerfeld which first debuted in 2002.
A collection the house defines as tribute to French savoir-faire and constant dialogue between the Chanel and a small army of artisans who work for a slew of several dozen suppliers, owned by Chanel’s Paraffection group. Regiments of embroiderers, feather workers, paruriers, pleaters, shoemakers, hatters and glove-makers located in France, Scotland and Italy, all labored on these clothes and accessories. And the result was a charming and contemporary collection that cleverly managed to avoid looking at all literal.
Each Métiers d’Art collection is presented in early December, a veritable special occasion outside any official calendar and traditionally the last great show of any year. All are themed around a destination or a historic character – from Queen Theodora of Ravenna to a punk rock Mary Stuart in Edinburgh.
Paraffection has now grown to employ more than 6,600 people, serving the creativity not just of Chanel, but many great fashion houses in France and elsewhere. Next year, a core 11 maisons d'art will move into Le 19M, a giant headquarters on the northern perimeter of Paris, containing 600 artisans in a 25,500-square-meter modernist structure by architect Rudy Ricciotti.
Something that Catherine, a humanist, art collector and lover of great architecture, would surely have approved.
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