Austria captivated Gabrielle Chanel with its charm, atmosphere and mountainous landscape. She loved nature, sport and outdoor activities as much as cultural events and high society: Austria offered it all. In a letter to Jean Cocteau on July 16, 1922 she wrote: "Tzara is in Tirol - seems to be feeling better and happy - perhaps I will go there too". Like many artists at that time, Tristan Tzara was there with Max Ernst and Paul Eluard, other members of the Dada movement.
Since the mid-nineteenth century, Salzburg and the Austrian Tirol had become highly desirable destinations. This popularity was confirmed in 1920, when director Max Reinhardt, composer Richard Strauss and author Hugo von Hofmannsthal created the Salzburg Festival, an annual summer operatic festival attracting a cultured and elegant audience.
In the early 1930s, Gabrielle Chanel loved to visit the famous ski station of Saint-Moritz, and it was here that she met Baron Hubert von Pantz, a dashing Austrian aristocrat. Elegant and courtly, he had all the traits to charm Gabrielle Chanel, with whom he had a two-year affair. In these early years of the 1930s, he bought Schloss Mittersill, a castle he transformed into a prestigious luxury hotel.
Schloss Mittersill was an instant success and in 1936, the American edition of Vogue magazine referred to it as: "the most talked-of place in Austria". With his high standards and exquisite manners, Hubert von Pantz attracted high ranking guests from the elite, including the Duc de Gramont and the Marquise de Polignac; but also artists such as Marlene Dietrich, Douglas Fairbanks and Cole Porter, all drawn in by the hotel's refined atmosphere as well as its traditional character. It offered many activities, ranging from golf to hikes on the glaciers, as well as shopping, an opportunity for this swanky clientèle to buy traditional Loden garments. It was at Mittersill that Gabrielle Chanel noticed the impeccable jackets worn by the hotel's elevator operators… A garment that she would remember in the early 1950s, when she created the iconic jacket of the Chanel suit, worn in 1961 by her friend, Austrian-born actress Romy Schneider...
The actress Romy Schneider during a fitting with Gabrielle Chanel in 1961
Giancarlo Botti ©BOTTI/STILLS/GAMMA
Since 2002, Chanel's annual Métiers d'Art collection celebrates craftsmanship while putting the spotlight on cities which are linked to the House's history. Following on from Bombay, Edinburgh and Dallas, this year Karl Lagerfeld's inspiration turns to Salzburg, Austria.
This city, with its deep appreciation for history and tradition, naturally lends itself Chanel's Métiers d'Art collection which brings to the fore the specialist atelier's unique expertise such as costume jeweller Desrues, feather dresser Lemarié, embroiderers Maison Lesage and Atelier Montex, shoemaker Massaro, milliner Michel and cashmere producer Barrie.
The collection will be presented at the 18th century Schloss Leopoldskron, one of the most notable rococo palaces in Austria. This castle, banked on the shores of Lake Leopoldskroner Weiher, has been inextricably linked to the rich artistic and intellectual life of Salzburg's society throughout its history, and will provide a spectacular stage for the collection which will be unveiled on Tuesday, December 2nd.
The invitation for the Métiers d'Art Paris-Salzburg show
Shown every year in December, the Métiers d'Art collection, proposes since 2002 a Ready-to-Wear collection – outside of the official show schedule – in order to enlighten exceptional savoir-faire and the work of artisans including costume jewelry and button maker Desrues, feathers and flowers maker Lemarié, hat maker Maison Michel, shoe maker Massaro, embroiderers Lesage and Montex, and glove maker Causse.
Every year, Karl Lagerfeld captures the history of Chanel by designating a city that’s linked to the past or present of the House and by making it the theme of his collection. Karl Lagerfeld thus celebrates the virtuosity of the above ateliers and their specialized savoir-faire while revisiting the codes of Chanel.
The artisans skillfully interpret Karl Lagerfeld's sketches season after season with the utmost devotion. "It’s made in an artisan way, in the very best sense of that word, because in artisan there is "art". The art of doing things well. An applied art. And that is truly wonderful. I think the image of this collection is reflected through this finesse which has to be seen up close, almost touched, to understand how it is done and to really appreciate the beauty of this work," Karl Lagerfeld explains.
Chanel is the only House to have dedicated an entirely separate collection to the Métiers d'Art in order to continue its legacy and extraordinary expertise. For more than ten years this collection has been consistently developed and now enjoys its own identity.
Available in boutiques from May onwards, the Métiers d'Art collection, marries modernity with artisanal savoir-faire and offers clients a refined and elegant Ready-to-Wear wardrobe. The accessories – bags, shoes, costume jewelry and even buttons – are the result of the attention paid to every detail.
The cities of Tokyo, New York, Monte-Carlo, London, Moscow, Shanghai, Byzance, Bombay, Edinburgh, Dallas and soon Salzburg, have all served as backdrop to the presentations of the Chanel Métiers d'Art collections.
© Anne Combaz