Chanel. What images… what ideas flash into your mind when you hear that word? For many, the name is synonymous with the apex of luxury, perhaps even the very definition of it, and I am, admittedly, a Chanel cult follower (in fact, as I write this, I’m wearing a Chanel brooch and shoes), but I love it for reasons that might surprise you…and that’s because I look at the whole thing un peu different, darlings.
The first reason Chanel is (in my humble opinion) the ultimate in luxe is because of it’s founder and the way she forged her own path. I admire the sprit and strength of Gabrielle Chanel and can identify with the personal struggles that shadowed her throughout her life. She is at once an inspiration and a cautionary tale. She lived both extraordinarily free, and crushingly constrained. Through it all, though, she created an identity for the modern woman and she did it in her own way, on her own terms; that’s luxury. It’s a testament to her persona that, for over 100 years now, Chanel has stood for the embodiment of feminine expression.
Second reason? They have steadfastly supported the artisan craftsmen who supply their products, enabling such specialized skills to be passed on and continually practiced. These partnerships have been in place almost as long as Chanel has existed; Maison Lesage (embroiderers), Lemarie (feather artists), Desrues (button maker), Causse (glove makers)… the list goes on and on. Through the years, Chanel has even acquired many of these smaller companies, ensuring their craft continues.
I know there is a fair amount of skepticism around designer brands and their value integrity; “Why should I pay $400 for a t-shirt? That logo is just a status symbol… etc.”. But sometimes, the cost is justified because you’re not just buying a t-shirt, you’re supporting over 100 years of artistry that probably would have died out with the modern age had it not been for companies like Chanel who have held it in enough esteem to preserve it.
Every December, Chanel celebrates these specialists through their Metiers D’art show, an incredible, yearly event that showcases the beautiful work produced in the various ateliers. To me, it’s the homage paid through these fantastical shows that pushes Chanel into a level of luxury that is unrivaled.
Check out this video of the December 2013 show in Dallas, Texas.