Karl Lagerfeld and Chanel celebrate the latest Métiers d’Art, a collection that pays homage to rarefied ateliers creating the highest levels of couture.
Karl Lagerfeld chose the Park Avenue Armory as backdrop for the Métiers d’art runway show. “The simple set showed the collection better than the gilded rooms,” says Lagerfeld, referencing Schloss Leopoldskron, where the show debuted.
In the world of fashion, there’s Karl Lagerfeld and everyone else. As the creative force behind the legendary house of Chanel, whose Boston-area f lagship store anchors the first block of Newbury Street, the German designer, artist, and photographer works at a superhuman pace, turning out six collections a year for Chanel, as well as collections for Fendi and his namesake line, plus numerous collaborations. This means he spends countless hours designing the items that the stylish set will soon be coveting and obsessing over, like cropped blazers, f lap messenger bags, and cap-toe chunky heels
Yet of all of Lagerfeld’s collections, perhaps the most dazzling is Chanel’s Métiers d’art. Presented once a year, it’s a celebration of the rich craftsmanship of the house’s seven ateliers, including the famed embroidery creator Lesage, the milliner Michel, and the feather maker Lemarie. The clothes are lavish, and so is the backdrop. Since the Métiers collection debuted in 2002, it has been unveiled in such memorable locations as a rodeo in Dallas, a castle in Scotland, and a barge in Shanghai.
“Our clientele travels a lot, and knitwear very much fits into the easy, sophisticated lifestyle of the Boston woman.”—Barbara Cirkva
Last winter, the new Paris-Salzburg Métiers d’art collection was fêted at the Schloss Leopoldskron palace in Salzburg, Austria, a location that stimulated Lagerfeld’s imagination. Rumor has it that Coco Chanel found inspiration for the famous Chanel jacket in the uniform of a hotel lift operator in Salzburg. But as Lagerfeld charmingly points out, “Nobody can prove if she said this herself, but who cares? There was a connection, and that connection doesn’t need to be related to the truth to serve as my inspiration.”
To present the more than 80 looks, models such as Stella Tennant and Kendall Jenner walked through a series of candlelit rooms where guests sat on elegant sofas and nibbled on confections. To close the show, Lagerfeld strolled by with model Cara Delevingne, who held a half-eaten pretzel in her hand.
And the collection was devastatingly beautiful. Jackets played a starring role, each one more imaginative than the last. There was a long, colorful embroidered jacket with flared sleeves and hem, a floor-length shearling coat, a breathtaking cape made almost entirely of feathers. Many pieces offered fresh takes on Tyrolean styles, like the beaded dirndl-inspired dress with a leather bodice, ruffled blouses with high collars and bibs, and knit leggings in Alpine colors of hunter green and dove gray. Even the accessories had a playful, Sound of Music joy to them: Headphones with coiled braids that cover the ears, felt bags embroidered with flowers, feathered hats, and black patent-leather clogs were among the standouts.
Lagerfeld even made a convincing case for bringing back lederhosen. The style’s best ambassador: the designer’s 6-year-old godson Hudson, who wore a pair of jean lederhosen with kneesocks, an outfit that reminded Lagerfeld of how he dressed as a child. “But my lederhosen were made from leather,” he says. “There were no jeans around for that back then!”
While the collection nods to the past, it never reads old-fashioned. “In a way, the clothes are timeless because Austrian people still wear these types of dresses,” Lagerfeld says, “but mine is a version of great luxury.”
It’s a luxury that would be unimaginable, however, if not for the company’s ateliers. “The commitment Chanel has made to supporting its ateliers is crucial not just for Chanel but for the entire haute couture industry and ready-to-wear business,” says Barbara Cirkva, the brand’s division president for fashion in the US. “The handcrafted skill that goes into these pieces can never be replicated. And you’d be hard-pressed to find a Chanel runway or Métiers collection that didn’t involve the ateliers on some level, whether it’s hand-woven braiding on a jacket or an embroidered camellia.”
Many of these exquisite pieces will find their way into one of the Back Bay’s star attractions, the Chanel boutique. “Newbury Street is so chic and fashionable that we wanted to expand our presence there,” says Cirkva. The store is modeled after a “townhouse, in keeping with Boston’s architectural style,” she adds, with “luxurious fitting rooms and a very residential feel in the ready-to-wear areas. You can come with a friend or your family and spend the day.” Knitwear is particularly popular in Boston, and not just because of the chilly winters. “Our clientele travels a lot,” Cirkva explains, “and knitwear very much fits into the easy, sophisticated lifestyle of the Boston woman.”
As for the Paris-Salzburg collection, it’s easy to fall in love with every last ruff led blouse and hair bow, proving that Lagerfeld has done it again and seduced us all—himself included. “It’s very difficult for me to have favorite pieces,” he says. “I love the collection as a whole. If not, I would only show one dress!” 6 Newbury St., 617-859-0055