and the new Chanel store in the Marais in what was formerly a run-down mansion, an eyesore in need of rehab.
Paris is fashion and Chanel is synonymous with it; a luxury brand for the wealthy. But what's little known is that Chanel, under Karl Lagerfeld's supervision, has helped save the artisans who make couture unique and a work of wearable art. Many of these ateliers have existed for a century or more and while their numbers have dwindled, their contributions to the world of fashion have not. And that is why Chanel has, since 1997, quietly acquired a handful of these prestigious workshops to preserve the Old World techniques and skills so essential to haute couture.
Designers and experts in embroidery, lace, weaving, textiles, pleating, feathers, passementerie, leather, fans, couture costume jewelry and more whose contributions help preserve an artistic heritage, and whose tradition is so linked to history and culture. Lagerfeld has added an extra Chanel show: a high-end ready-to-wear collection designed to profile the work of the Paris métiers d’art, the ateliers that create, by hand, the embroideries, beading,
tulle flowers, hats, and shoes on which couture designers rely. Chanel and all the Paris-based couturiers use them. If Chanel hadn't stepped in, these small specialized artisan ateliers would be long gone. Technically couture means there are fittings and they are made for an individual client. Years ago, I met a Turkish concierge of an apartment building who talked about the neighborhood (in the 10th arrondissement) and what made it unique. He had a sewing machine in his loge, a side line in simple alterations he said. But he'd take me to meet the specialists, the ones who worked for high fashion, and introduce me. Around the corner from his building, behind doors that led to a small workshop.
Upstairs I met a woman who by hand, sews hems on Chanel. She showed me her work for the pret-a-porté line. Ok, they weren't sewn in Chanel's own atelier but the work was there. Her business employed under a handful of people.