How Chanel’s latest show made centuries-old techniques look modern

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In Chanel’s Métiers d’art show, which took place in Paris on Tuesday, one black, pleated, pearl embellished skirt with large entwined C’s carved into the accordion folds stood out for me, not least because shortly  before the show I was taken on a tour of the pleating specialists who made it for Chanel. It took two weeks to complete. This is not your average pleating.

And that’s the point.

Métiers d’art is a collection Chanel stages every December expressly to showcase the skills of the specialist businesses it has been quietly buying up for decades, in many cases saving them from extinction.

In March this year – after a financially successful year despite global lockdowns –  it finally brought all the craft labels it now owns together in a specially commissioned building in Paris’s 19th arrondissement.  Futuristic, despite the ancients skills practised there, 19M (the building is named for its location and for the métiers it houses) is decorated with what looks like concrete pipe cleaners. Not just for decoration, they keep the sun from scorching the feathers, embroidery, lace, beading, millinery and yes, pleats that are painstakingly crafted inside.

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