Chanel is considered one of the most prestigious fashion houses in existence today. Many hold it in high regard as the crème de la crème of elegance, sophistication, style and design. As a brand held in such distinguished reverence, it is uniquely positioned to assist in crafting the global landscape in fashion, and, in turn, the gaze of the world will eagerly follow its lead. That gaze now falls upon Dakar, the capital of Senegal, the locale chosen to set the scene for Chanel’s 2022/23 Métiers d’art show.
The Métiers d’art programme series, showcases Chanel’s pride in craftsmanship and its authority in artisanship, both of which are richly embedded into the fabric of its designs, collections and all aspects of the fashion house. Karl Lagerfeld envisioned the first Métiers d’art presentation, weaving it into the framework of Chanel’s heritage in 2002. This show, in Dakar, marks its 20th anniversary year. It is also the very first time Chanel has shown in sub-Saharan Africa. In fact, it is the first European fashion house to debut any collection, off-season or otherwise, in the region.
The conception of the Métiers d’art presentation works to reinforce Chanel’s relationship to the rich and robust skill and culture of true artisans in regions all over the world. Chanel’s opulent reputation is contingent on its ability to usher these essential relationships into works of art for the fashion house. The longstanding connection between Chanel and its artisans ensures the quality of the textiles, the fabrics, the materials, the craftsmanship. Chanel strives to weave every element together, while working in pursuit of genuinely crafted and precisely authentic artistry evident in each garment. The moment this no longer rings true, is the instance the design house will be stripped of its worthiness to be held in such distinct and high esteem. In order to maintain this right, Chanel must continue extending the boundaries of its limits, searching for true artisanship in places where inspiration sparks freely, and for Chanel, that inspiration has been ignited in Dakar.
The Chanel Métiers d’art 2022/23 Dakar presentation extends beyond the show itself, creating the potential to genuinely impact the region. At November’s Cruise 2023 Replica show in Miami, Pharrell Williams, an ambassador for the Chanel brand, discussed the significance of the Dakar presentation. In a master class connected to the Miami fashion event, Williams offered his thoughts on how Chanel would help honor the deep rooted French history within the Senegalese culture. He explained, “For me, it’s interesting because Senegal was once occupied by the French. It’s not lost on them that this was once a French colony. To come there and do the exact opposite of colonization was very interesting. Because it’s not just coming there to do a show. It’s actually providing so many partnerships… That’s unprecedented.” It is clear that his comments are demonstrated in the programming.
Even Virginie Viard, Chanel’s Creative Director (since 2019), explained in a statement that the Dakar presentation “[goes] beyond the runway show.” She went on, saying, “we’ve been thinking about it for three years. I wanted it to happen gently, over several days of deep, respectful dialoguing.” With that said, it is easy to see that Chanel’s decision to showcase in sub-Saharan Africa was not rash. Understanding this as a highly pivotal moment in fashion (historically), it is obvious that Chanel, its designers, creatives and curators took time for a period of deep introspection while creating the Dakar programming. In addition to the show, the presentation includes an insightful discussion on Dakar, simply titled, Talk, as well as a Les Rendez-vous littéraires, where Chanel honors French writer Marie NDiaye, whose father was from Senegal. Beyond that, the fashion house has something in mind for reinforcing their relationship with the African region.
In January 2023, Chanel will bring its la Galerie du 19M (an exhibition space in Paris for the exchanging of ideas, focusing on craftsmanship and artistry, especially in embroidery and weaving) to Dakar. While there, the space will create opportunities for dialogue around the rich diverse traditions and new techniques of trades within craftsmanship and artisanship. An exhibition that prides itself in being free to all, and open to everyone, chanel hopes to help pass on the vocations of these skills to the Senegalese community. Then, the exhibition will return to Paris and where the presentation will make a second appearance in la Galerie du 19M, in Porte d’Aubervilliers. This is all possible with the support of IFAN (Institut fondamental d’Afrique noire).