Friday, May 6, 2011

The WSJ Magazine: "The Old World Artistry Behind the Modern House of Chanel"


In a time when the bygone era of haute ateliers have slowly disappeared from the big fashion houses, Chanel has kept the art of fine craftsmanship alive.  In our fast paced world, the need for "fast fashion" has overtaken our need for fine works of art like hand beading and embroidery.  Chanel, however, has made the most backward progressive move.  Seven specialized ateliers in Paris have been bought up by Chanel over the last nine years.  Some of these ateliers have been around for over 150 years.  Not only did Chanel save their dying art but it uses them to continue on with the house's very own couture techniques and style.

 The Seven Ateliers of Chanel

Lemarié When Chanel introduced her famous molded flower, it was Andre Lemarié who helped create it.  They've made these flowers into everything from tweed to cardboard.  About 20,000 are produced each year for Chanel.  What is their other specialty? Feathers, from ostrich to swans and peacocks, their stockpile of feathers can't be beat. 

Lesage:  Founded in 1924, this house of embroidery was purchased in 2002 by Chanel.  It is the most famous of all ateliers who was often frequented by Poiret and Schiaparelli.  Francois Lesage, second generation embroiderer, and his team produces about 100 new samples for each couture collection after Karl Lagerfield provide them his sketches.

Guillet The silky flowers have been in bloom since 1896.  From silk, velvet to lace, Guillet have created these floral staple of Chanel for years. 

Maison Michel Since 1936, this Parisian milliner has been perfecting its art in head wear.  Their hats are known for its eccentric shapes and form as well as their use of unique materials.  Prior to its lauch within the house of Chanel in 2006, Michel worked with the likes of Givency & Lanvin.

Desrues Known for its crafty skills in the are of costume jewelry, Desrues' relationship with Mademoiselle Chanel started in 1965 when he created her first collection of buttons.  Since then the company has become Chanel's preferred supplier and have worked with Lanvin, Dior, and Yves Saint Laurent.
 Goossens:  Coco Chanel asked Goossens to help design her Byzantine-inspired jewelry that until this day remains Chanel's signature.  The door to Goossens was first opened in 1950 by Robert Goossens.  They specializes in metal ornaments and their clients in those days were the most fashionable.  Frequenters are Pablo Picasso's second wife, Jacqueline Soon, and French poet Louise de Vilmorin.  

Massaro Their custom shoes have graced the feet of Parisians since 1894.  It takes about 40 hours to handwork to complete a pair of their shoes.  What did they do for Chanel? Oh, only designed the house famous flats with the black toe (1957).  The house also works with Christian Dior, Azzedine Alai, and many private clients.

Pre-Fall 2011 Collection

For his pre-fall 2011 collection, Karl Lagerfield's was inspired by Coco Chanel's own inspiration for her first line of costume jewelry launched in the 1920's.  The grand splendor of the Byzance Collection is through its embellished use of glass beading and gold threading through the tweed jacket. 

Bold Colors & Antique Golds

The collection is a cross of modernity and ancient emperialism through its artistic use of jeweled head band and over the top beadings througout.  It's definitely Chanel, you can still see their iconic style and eye for high quality from its chosen material to the crafting.  Very unique indeed.  My favorite? The cream dress up top.

Source of article: WSJ Magazine, May 2011.  Photographs by Benoit Peverelli.  Byzance photos from Vogue France.

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