By Kari Molvar | August 17, 2015 | Style & Beauty
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, Lagerfeld works at a pace that exceeds maximum velocity. The German designer, artist, and photographer turns out six collections a year for Chanel (never mind those he does for Fendi and his namesake line, or the numerous collaborations he takes on). Which means nearly every hour of every day is spent designing items that will soon be coveted and obsessed over (see: cropped blazers, flap messenger bags, cap-toe chunky heels).
Yet of all Lagerfeld’s collections, the Chanel Métiers d’Art is perhaps the most dazzling. Staged once a year, it’s a celebration of the rich craftsmanship of the house’s seven ateliers, including the famed embroidery creator Lesage, milliner Michel, and feather maker Lemarié. The clothes are lavish, and so is the backdrop. Since the first Métiers collection debuted in 2002, it’s been presented in such memorable locations as a Dallas rodeo, a castle in Scotland, and a barge in Shanghai.
Last winter, the new Paris-Salzburg Métiers d’art collection was fêted at Schloss Leopoldskron castle in Salzburg, Austria, a destination that sparked Lagerfeld’s imagination. Rumor has it that Coco Chanel found inspiration for the famous Chanel jacket in Salzburg, after spying a similar design on a hotel lift operator. But as Lagerfeld charmingly pointed 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 80-plus looks, models like 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 Cara Delevingne, who held a half-eaten pretzel in hand.
Everything was so über-chic that it deserved an encore. And so this spring Lagerfeld restaged the entire Paris-Salzburg collection at the Park Avenue Armory in New York, for a crowd that included Beyoncé, Vanessa Paradis, and Julianne Moore. “New York is quite far away from Salzburg, and since it was such a success there, I thought it would be nice to show it to our friends in New York,” the designer explained. The models, the clothes, the dark romantic music, all came along for the trip. The only thing Lagerfeld couldn’t bring was the 18th-century Rococo castle, which didn’t seem to bother him in the least. “For me it was like seeing another collection in New York. The simpler set showed the collection better than over-ornate, gilded gold rooms,” he admits.
A look from the Métiers d’art collection.
And the collection was devastatingly beautiful. Jackets played a starring role, each one more imaginative than the next: There was a long embroidered jacket with flared sleeves and hem, a floor-length shearling coat, and a breathtaking cape made almost entirely of feathers. Many pieces showed 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 feel to them; headphones with coiled braids that covered the ears, felt bags embroidered with flowers, feathered hats, and black patent-leather clogs were among the standouts.
And of course, Lagerfeld made a convincing case for bringing back lederhosen. The style’s best ambassador: Lagerfeld’s 6-year-old godson, Hudson, who wore a pair of denim lederhosen with knee socks. The outfit reminded the designer of what he wore as a child. “But my lederhosen were made from leather. 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, but mine are a version of great luxury,” Lagerfeld says.
It’s a luxury that would be unimaginable if not for the ateliers, though. “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.”
As for the Paris-Salzburg collection, it’s easy to fall in love with every last ruffled blouse and hair bow. Which only proves that Lagerfeld has done it again—and seduced us all, himself included. “It’s very difficult for me to have favorites pieces,” he says. “I love the collection as a whole—if not, I would only show one dress!” Wynn Las Vegas, 702-770-33532
photography by karl lagerfeld