Courtesy of Chanel.com

A La Mode,

A L'Antique

by DDA, December 10 2018

Craftsmanship is the very manifestation of human intelligence. It was in the epochs of history - when the ancient civilizations emerged and shined - that mankind showed their spectacular innovations of skills and technologies. Incredibly advanced beyond time, their practices nourished the idiosyncratic creativities to fruition and remained forever miraculous not only at their time but also the present. Even modern mechanism would seem dimmed compared to the minds and hands of our predecessors.

Ancient Egypt, recognized as the Cradle of Civilization, offered a major inspiration for Chanel Métier D’Art 2019. With Karl’s ingenious mélange, the collection turned ancient Egyptian's bold use of colour, audacious application of makeup and sumptuous fashion of style even more epic. It was a blend of Egyptian sanctity, New York modernity and Art Décor fantasy. With the cinematic soundtrack played out, models trailed on the thickets of papyrus covered on the moat that surrounds the Temple of Dendur.

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Chanel Métier D’Art 2019 Paris-New York

Sketch by Karl Lagerfeld

Courtesy of Chanel.com 

Courtesy of Chanel.com

The big apple had much to do with Gabrielle Chanel herself. This country embraced her after the war with open arms while the French press was turning her down. In 1931, Chanel embarked on her first adventure to America. Although her initial destination was Hollywood, she stopped and visited New York for a little while with the company of Misia Sert. Then 8 years later, in 1939, the house of Chanel showed up at the New York World’s Fair as one of the French representatives of the Couture and Perfumery. Gabrielle had her imagination associated with this continent a long time ago when she invented a shadow in which her father had only left her for a prosperous future on this land. In her visit, she must be aware that her father probably never made his way to America, but she convinced herself that he only went swallowed among the crowds in the States. When Misia claimed to find the evidence of her father’s mark, which was a spelling of “Chanel” on a gatepost in Beverly Hills, Chanel answered with nonchalance. Underneath her piercing tone was perhaps a pierced dream unrealized.  

1931, Chanel at Pierre Hotel

New York

Courtesy of Chanel.com 

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Chanel Fall 2010 
Courtesy of Vogue Runway
Photo: Monica Feudi / GoRunway.com

In this holiday season, Karl settled his Métier D’Art show at the Met on December 4th. As if a gift to the world, Chanel offered us an effervescent escape to the far Egyptian land unnecessary of a time machine but just a ride to the Upper East side in Manhattan. Before the show, Chanel announced their ban on the use of exotic skin due to the difficulty in finding the resources that match the ethical value of the house. Karl Lagerfeld himself couldn't recall many designs in fur for Chanel, although that was much of his Fendi territory, even models at the Chanel Fall 2010 was actually enchanted with faux-fur.

Under the umbrella of “Paraffection”, Chanel united 26 houses that practice age-long savoir-faire and innovative techniques. Within all its efforts, Chanel also constructed a building designed by the award-winning architect Rudy Ricciotti for these maisons d’art in the Parisian suburb of Aubervilliers. I won’t try to bore you with detailed introductions to these amazing plumassiers, shoemakers and hatters, because the virtuosity of the artisans has paraded itself in the dazzling works they created. In the array of gold, punctuated with colourful gems, sparkling rhinestones and pearly cabochons, Chanel Métier D’Art 2019 made Egyptian style great again in the blinding lights of New York city.

Courtesy of Chanel.com

Without caution, such history-themed production can end up like costumes, but Karl cleverly evaded. “I don’t do research,” the designer finally unveiled the origin of his inspiration. The books he used to read all culminated in his accurate translation. Having an instinct for style that came to him intuitively, his erudite interpretation of the ancient Egyptian style mixed with modern elements rendered the collection majestic and upbeat. Piqued by the style prevailing 4000 year ago, Karl Lagerfeld still found it elegant today as he told Loïc Prigent. It was the collective work between the artisans that brought this elegance back to life again. “It was Chanel’s perseverance to preserve the arts of the hands by involving itself into the making that continued the legacy of these houses of art”, the artistic director of Lesage, Hubert Barrère, revealed to Amy Verner.

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Courtesy of Chanel.com

While the experts at Lesage went inventive with their stitching needles, the magical hands at Atelier Montex would use Luneville crochet hook and Cornely embroidery machines to inlay meticulous detailed on the fabrics.

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Courtesy of Vogue Runway
Photo: Alessandro Lucioni / Gorunway.com

Following the discovery of the tomb of Toutancambon, the influenced art décor style appeared in the architectures of their days. The Chrysler building in New York was abstractly assembled on the dress, and the 1920s New York skyline jewel by Gabrielle Chanel was also reinterpreted by Montex.

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Courtesy of Chanel.com

As if a final touch that turned the look even more Egypt-charmed, the hats, awash in gold, were given a high crown and folded brim at Maison Michel.

Courtesy of Chanel.com

The boots by Massaro were bejeweled by Goossens and Desrues at the heels adding a vivid touch to the golden leather.

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Courtesy of Chanel.com

Reminiscent of the breastplate, the dress was embellished in flamboyant sequins. The palms of papyrus leaf were reimagined with metallic threads and glass beads on others.

Attracted to the minimalism of pyramid, Karl presented his pyramid minaudière at Chanel Paris-New York. 

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Courtesy of Chanel.com
Courtesy of Chanel.com
The Chrysler building 
Courtesy of internet 
Courtesy of Chanel.com

The buttons and buckles in lapis lazuli blue were hammered at the Goossens. Scarabs and serpents found on the antiquities were also given quilted carves, coated with resin and encrusted with rhinestones.

Courtesy of Chanel.com
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Courtesy of Chanel.com
Courtesy of Chanel.com
Courtesy of Chanel.com

Starting with oversized outline and rolling into sinuous silhouette, Chanel Métier D’Art 2019 shaped the body in tenuous empowerment, firm like a sculpture yet soft like feathers. The Egyptian references was overtly advertised in the meticulous handworks of the maisons d’art. As the show unfolded itself, more connections to eclectic modernity can be found. From the wall to the clothes, the hieroglyphs were transformed in the graffiti by French artist Cyril Kongo at Chanel, a modern hieroglyphic system that historian can’t withstand. Printed on fabrics, the street of today payed homage to the glories of the past, hand in hand with the shearling-lined denim aviator jacket oversized. Some motifs of the Memphis design group also grasped our attention, as seen in knitwear and prints.

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Courtesy of Vogue Runway
Photo: Alessandro Lucioni / Gorunway.com
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Courtesy of Chanel.com
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Courtesy of Vogue Runway
Photo: Alessandro Lucioni / Gorunway.com

In both length and width, the classic Chanel jacket was given a boxy accentuation. Offsetting the broad shoulders, the seductive sensation of the white gauzy dress went skimming the floor in flounces. Depicting a flowing moment when a goddess walked upon river, Chanel’s articulate imitation of the kalasiris kept the archaic aesthetics up to date. The altered waistline at a lower position emphasized the curves of the back appreciating the height of the hips.

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Courtesy of Vogue Runway
Photo: Alessandro Lucioni / Gorunway.com
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Shendyt depicted on Ancient Egyptian
Courtesy of internet

In addition to the references, the shendyt worn by the ancient Egyptians was recreated in Chanel’s manner. Rising the front slightly or splitting the front piece like a kilt, the bottom-wear was sealed in black, gold and Egyptian graphics.

Courtesy of Chanel.com
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Courtesy of Chanel.com
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Courtesy of Chanel.com

Dyed in navy, turquoise and red, the feathers were lined in gold and crafted in the geometric reliefs of scale-shape by Lemarié. Such special feather marqueterie resembled the trompe l’oeil effect on the dress in elongated silhouette discovered from the relics. This reference - vibrant in colours, solid in hues and high in saturation - was elevated at Chanel, giving a nod to Les Années Folles

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Estate Figure from the Middle Kingdom
Courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Courtesy of Chanel.com
Courtesy of Chanel.com
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Courtesy of Chanel.com
Courtesy of Chanel.com
Courtesy of Chanel.com

In complement to the whole look, the artisans of hair and makeup also flourished the collection to be more of the Métier. Observed by Stephanie Saltzman, models at the show were given sculpted hair. Sam McKnight used lots of pomade to hold the hair and combed it through to mimic the sculpted line. Several looks were featured with a curled finish to enhance the femininity. The Cleopatra references were carefully avoided in case of any rigid cliché on the ancient Egyptian imagery. Lucia Pica developed a makeup look that can perfectly hug any eye shape yet still bring out individualities with colours of white, blue, black and gold. The liner started from the inner corner of an eye and then swept across the crease line, fading into the temple (not of the Dendur but yours). According to Lisa Eldridge’s research, the Egyptian women were given a fair amount of autonomy, not only in the properties they can inherit but the makeup they can afford on the face. The black kohl liner was perceived as the most iconic Egyptian statement look. Although makeup is now commonly reserved as a territory for women, the liner was initially designed to protect the eyes from the glare of the sun and both men and women were appreciated for wearing it in their own style. Some also suggested that their lined eyes was paying tribute to the Eye of Horus. In addition to the face paint, gold body paint were slathered on models' legs seamlessly connecting the golden high boots and gold-glided wearings. While the ancient Egyptians would protect their skin with oil extracted from natural ingredients, this modern version of skin coat could serve as an armor. Trend for 2019 maybe? 

Courtesy of Chanel.com
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Courtesy of Chanel.com
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Courtesy of Chanel.com
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Courtesy of Celia Ellenberg
Courtesy of Chanel.com

Of course, Karl could have built his own pyramid in the Grand Palais, but to walk so closely to the real ruins is a rare experience. “I love the vide in New York”, the Chanel majordomo said. Bring in the exuberance of human activity from this city, the Met was the ideal location for Chanel Métier D’Art 2019. Laura Bailey noted, the pursuit of eternal life was an obsession of the ancient Egyptians. This afterlife was probably continued when the diverse model cast walked out with a Sphinx guarding the entrance of eternity. Chanel has more than the unquenchable desire for spectacular details, but also a sincere respect to the creative minds. Hubert Barrère confessed that in Karl’s creation there’s a space for the imagination of the artisans, referring to the freedom they have to do research and draft up the idea of their own in embroidery. Chanel never ceases to cultivate and reinvent the brilliance of fashion. 

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