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


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


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.


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.


Paris in Rome 2015/16 Métiers d'Art



"The mule... It's a typical Chanel shoe, open behind, but we had never done it. With a lace stocking, it's something which, in people's minds, is very Paris." Karl Lagerfeld

℗ Tricatel


French musician Chassol live performance at the Paris in Rome 2015/16 Métiers d'Art show.


© Anne Combaz


© Anne Combaz


Fine embroidery is the traditional craft of creating flat or raised motifs using a variety of materials, from cotton and sequins to cabochons, feathers, crystals, and pendants, on fabrics ranging from light, airy organza and chiffon to stiff, resistant leather and tweed.

Ornamenting a garment begins with a design which is pricked out on a paper pattern, then transferred to the fabric using a special blend (of resin and chalk).
The embroidery materials are attached one by one using a needle or crochet hook. It takes on average some 20 hours to make up a sample, which will then be presented in a frame.

One key technique is "Lunéville" embroidery, which takes its name from the French town of the same name. The technique dates from 1867, when it was invented to simplify and speed up needlework. It involves using a crochet hook to chain stitch small decorations such as tiny beads, sequins, and thread to the underside of the fabric.
The embroiderer works blind, guided solely by her experience and her dexterous fingers.

One witty innovation this year are the leather “farfalle” bows embroidered with beads, specially designed by the Maison Lesage for the Paris in Rome 2015/16 Métiers d'Art show.

Cinecittà Studios - Rome



Jeanne Moreau © Keystone France
Romy Schneider © Courtesy of Paul Ronald, Archivio Storico del Cinema, AFE
Delphine Seyrig © Keystone France
Anouk Aimée and Federico Fellini © Photo D.R


Gabrielle Chanel was always close to actresses. Was it because she mastered designing costumes, or because she herself had had dreams of a stage career in her youth? One of the first actresses to model Chanel’s hats in public was Gabrielle Dorziat.

Twenty years later, the couturiere was famous in the United States and beyond for her film costume designs. In 1931, the mute film star Gloria Swanson appeared in "Tonight or Never" clad in a long Chanel dress. In 1955, Marilyn Monroe captivated the world when she confessed to wearing only Chanel No. 5 in bed.
"The whole world of film making wants to wear Chanel," said the magazine "Elle" in November 1958. Many of Chanel’s clients were indeed actresses. Filmmakers including the New Wave directors asked Chanel to dress their leading ladies, among them the femmes fatales played by Jeanne Moreau in Louis Malle's "The Lovers" in 1958 and by Delphine Seyrig in "Last Year at Marienbad" in 1961.

Gabrielle Chanel also designed clothing worn on screen and in real life by Annie Girardot and Brigitte Bardot. She was friends with Anouk Aimée, spoke about literature with Jeanne Moreau, became a mentor to and admirer of Romy Schneider, instilling the art of charm in some, teaching the art of dressing to others.

Cinecittà Studios - Rome


By Rebecca Lowthorpe


© Benoit Peverelli


Paris in Rome 2015/16 Métiers d'Art collection


© Courtesy of Paul Ronald, Archivio Storico del Cinema, AFE


© Courtesy of Paul Ronald, Archivio Storico del Cinema, AFE


In 1936, at the age of 30, Luchino Visconti arrived in Paris, an artistic, intellectual and political hub during the pre-war period.
When he met Gabrielle Chanel, he was stunned by her mixture of "feminine beauty, masculine intelligence, and outstanding energy." He invited her to Italy and introduced her to his family. Gabrielle Chanel was instrumental in getting Jean Renoir to let him watch a film shooting.
The film director did better than that: hiring Luchino as an assistant and help choose costumes for two of his major films, "The Lower Depths" and "A Day in the Country", to which Gabrielle Chanel also contributed. This experience made a deep impression on Luchino, deciding him to pursue a career in film making.

After producing such masterpieces as "La Terra Trema", "Senso", and "Rocco and His Brothers", Luchino met Gabrielle Chanel again, in 1962. He asked her to design the costumes for "Boccaccio'70", and to teach the film’s leading actress, Romy Schneider, her sense of elegance.
The camera follows Romy as she appears successively attired in a brocade clothing, a negligee, and a cream suit. She moves around gracefully, ties a belt on her dress. In front of her mirror, she adjusts her pearl necklace and hair. The transformation has taken place. Romy has metamorphosed into a "femme fatale", a mixture of charm and elegance.

Chanel and Visconti remained lifelong friends.


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