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© Olivier Saillant - Teatro N°5 - Cinecittà Studios - Rome

the-show-by-rebecca-lowthorpe

© Olivier Saillant - Teatro N°5 - Cinecittà Studios - Rome

THE SHOW BY REBECCA LOWTHORPE

Picture an entire Parisian street scene – complete with bar, restaurant, baker, grocer, florist, Metro station and cinema – and recreate it in the heart of the legendary Roman film studios, Cinecittà, and you have the cinematic setting for Chanel’s 2015 Métiers d’Art show – the collection which every December settles in a different city and celebrates the artisans of Chanel’s specialist ateliers.

Held in Teatro number 5 (of course) - the studio where Federico Fellini filmed his 1960s masterpiece "La Dolce Vita" - Karl Lagerfeld reconstructed the set for "Paris à Rome" in spectacular, meticulous detail. Built entirely in black and white, it not only recalled Italy’s moviemaking heyday with the silver patina of old projector film stock but also the era when Coco Chanel dressed its greatest stars, Jeanne Moreau, Monica Vitti, Anouk Aimée and Romy Schneider for their performances in films directed by Italy’s movie maestros Visconti or Antonioni.

Karl Lagerfeld explained that his ulterior motive for the monochromatic set was that it should bring the clothes into sharp relief, since so many of them played on the classic Chanel palette of black, beige, cream, grey and navy blue. So when the show’s live music began (interpreted by Chistophe Chassol, playing the piano in a restored bandstand) and the models emerged from the set’s Metro station, the clothes were indeed more luminous than ever.

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This was the moment, aside from the typical Parisian street scene, in which there was no doubt we were looking at a collection that could have only ever come out of France, steeped in all things quintessentially French, all things quintessentially Chanel. "That’s why Paris in Rome, that is important," stressed Karl Lagerfeld, "this house is French, the collection is made in France and by the most experienced, talented and best craftspeople in the world". So from the models’ Bardot-esque beehives down to their pearl-embellished mules – a first for this particular shoe shape at Chanel, said Karl Lagerfeld – and from the long tweed jackets draped around the shoulders of slim, saucy silhouettes that included everything from glinting metallic boucle dresses to black lacquered pencil skirts, little black dresses pleated to perfection and the new three-piece suit (a jacket, straight skirt and cigarette trousers), all worn with kinky lacy tights, the overarching mood was, at first, distinctly Parisian.

But the magic of the show, and collection, was how Karl Lagerfeld directed the development of his multi-faceted Paris in Rome plot. Just as the palette began to appear tinged with Rome’s famous golden light - ochre and orange through cappuccino and pink – so too did the fabrics became richer, embellished with everything from witty surface detail such as a leather pencil skirt that resembled tiny bows of "Farfalle" pasta to feathers that had been hand-painted to resemble marble. Dresses’ necklines grew into short papal capes and the most exquisite cashmere came overlaid with rosary-jewelled necklaces. One dress, a cocoon-like bubble constructed in petals of vibrant coral, seemed to hark back to a time when couture was centred in Rome as well as Paris.

But more than anything the collection showcased Chanel as the paradigm of French chic together with the breathtaking virtuosity of its artisans who know no bounds whichever city or culture the Métiers d’Art collections’ inspiration spring from. At the end of the show, the backdrop sprang to life – the doors of every establishment flung open to serve pasta, pizza and gelato – a fitting metaphor for the bustling existence of Chanel’s specialist ateliers and their transformative powers.

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