1,000 safety pins and endless leather flowers: A deep-dive into the extraordinary details of Chanel’s punky Métiers d'Art collection

By Allyson Shiffman

Vogue Scandinavia steps into Chanel's Parisian atelier to explore the meticulous artistry and hand-craftsmanship of the Métiers d'Art collection, showcased in Manchester last night

Yesterday evening, in Manchester’s Northern Quarter, Chanel embraced punk. Genuine in-your-face, ‘never mind the bullocks’ punk. A powerful mashup of the movement that emerged here in the mid ‘70s by way of bands like Joy Division and the Buzzcocks and the utter artistry of a Chanel Métiers d'Art collection. “The show had such a good vibe – we were on a street with the rain pouring down,” says our editor-in-chief Martina Bonnier, who notes it was “one of the best” Métiers d’Art shows” she’s ever seen. “It was this fantastic work, but still very contemporary.”

The pearl and tweed-heavy, prim and proper Chanel and punk may seem like strange bedfellows, but it’s not the first time creative director Virginie Viard has drawn inspiration from the movement. For the Cruise 2022 show, Viard sent fishnets and piercings, dog collars and Chanel band Ts down the runway. This time around, she called on Chanel’s masterful Maisons d’art to interpret punk by way of sequinned badges and the generous use of safety pins, tucked beneath delicate chiffon. Guests like Kristen Stewart, Tilda Swinton and Alexa Chung – all quite the modern punks themselves – looked on from simple wooden tables, pints in hand as New Order blared from the speakers.

When it was founded in 1880 by Palmyre Coyette, Maison Lemarié specialised exclusively in feathers. Since then, the Maison has added pleating, couture detailing and flowers – specifically Chanel’s iconic camellias – to its repertoire. Each year, nearly 25,000 camellias bloom from the Maison, fashioned by hand in silk and organza, tweed and velvet. At yesterday’s show, they popped up on the breast of tweed suits and sweet shift dresses; ladylike ‘I’m with the band’ looks.

It’s very punk, but it’s still very delicate. It looks so simple – that’s what we want you to believe – but it’s so difficult.

Christelle Kocher, artist director at Maison Lemarié

For the this collection, the House of Lemarié was tasked with translating Manchester punk into delicate couture. Safety pins – some 1000 of them – were hand-sewn into punky interlocking Cs, later becoming the bodice of a floor-sweeping gown. “It’s very punk, but it’s still very delicate,” says Kocher. “It looks so simple – that’s what we want you to believe – but it’s so difficult.” On the opposite station, several contrasting tweeds were steamed and sewn together, creating a deconstructed tapestry, finished with teeny tiny sequins and beads, later becoming the sleeves of a knee-length coat. Burnt orange and brown ostrich feathers are carefully sewn together then twisted into a sort of boa, later affixed to the lapel of a coat.

Photo: Courtesy of Chanel

Photo: Courtesy of Chanel

Photo: Courtesy of Chanel

Elsewhere, an all-over black and white beaded jacket and matching skirt set, finished with tiny leather camellias, is diligently handcrafted. This piece was particularly challenging; it took 500 hours to fashion the flowers alone.

It’s about dressing a woman of our time.

Christelle Kocher, artist director at Maison Lemarié

For Kocher, the collection comes down to a particular attitude, one that’s more than a little feminist. “We want to make women who are strong,” she says. “Not like a caricature. There are such gimmicky things about fashion that aren’t Chanel, aren’t Virginie and not contemporary. It’s about dressing a woman of our time.”

Photo: Courtesy of Chanel

On the opposite end of the building, the Montex atelier was carefully embroidering fabrics, drawing on nearly nine decades of experience. Using a potpourri of techniques – like the Luneville chain stitch, developed in 1810, and the hand-guided Cornely embroidery machines – the Maison creates otherworldly fabrics by the metre, an archive of which can be found at the atelier’s entrance. Each season, Viard begins with a visit to this very room, perusing through Montex’s previous work to gain inspiration for her upcoming collection.

Photo: Courtesy of Chanel

In the weeks leading up to the show, one could find an artisan sitting at his station, using the Luneville technique to hand stitch sequins of varying size in thin, precise bands. The finished result appears as a record, a reference to Manchester’s punky past. It will later become the bodice of a tube dress, met with a black sequinned skirt. Elsewhere, small badges, hand-sewn with sequinned teapots and saucers, are prepared to attach to light-as-air blouses.

As for which pieces Bonnier is coveting? “The tweed, the pearl work, flat ballerinas and the knits were so delicate and cool,” she says. “I want it all.” And with that she traipsed off to watch Primal Scream play the afterparty.

See all the runway looks below:

Chanel Métiers d'Art 2023 in Manchester