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Chanel's Enchanting Manchester Affair: A Symphony of Style, Music, and Luxury

Chanel's spectacular Métiers d'Art 2024 exhibition unfolded in Manchester, England, a departure from the conventional luxury settings associated with the French fashion house. Against the city's signature rainy backdrop, Chanel transformed some of Manchester's iconic landmarks into a hub of luxury and pop culture, culminating in the highly anticipated annual Métiers d'Art runway show.


The choice of Manchester, England's third-largest city, may seem unexpected for a brand that has only one stockist, Selfridges, in the locale. Unlike the picturesque tourist destinations of York, Bath, or Cambridge, Manchester is renowned as a rainy manufacturing city, once celebrated for its cotton mills and now known for contemporary fashion labels such as Umbro, Boohoo, Missguided, and Private White V.C.

Chanel's creative director, Virginie Viard, however, saw a different facet of Manchester—a city pulsating with the echoes of Factory Records and legendary clubs like Haçienda, birthplaces of influential bands including Joy Division, New Order, Happy Mondays, The Smiths, and Oasis.

n for contemporary fashion labels such as Umbro, Boohoo, Missguided, and Private White V.C.

Chanel's creative director, Virginie Viard, however, saw a different facet of Manchester—a city pulsating with the echoes of Factory Records and legendary clubs like Haçienda, birthplaces of influential bands including Joy Division, New Order, Happy Mondays, The Smiths, and Oasis.

Viard seamlessly integrated Manchester's music heritage into the show, featuring charming guitar and musical note charms adorning gold and pearl chains, micro-shoulder bags mimicking vinyl records, flat caps, and hairbands reminiscent of the rockers' distinctive hairstyles.

The jewelry collection, including cuff bracelets, pearly necklaces, brooches, and earrings, took inspiration from candy buttons, exhibiting vibrant hues of red, yellow, and green mirroring the album sleeves and graphics crafted by Peter Saville for Factory Records. 

In alignment with Coco Chanel's famous advice, "Before you leave the house, look in the mirror and remove one accessory," Viard maintained a delicate balance, allowing the signature tweeds to take center stage. The collection featured standout pieces, including skirt suits, knee-grazing coats with chain belts, and a playful swingy cape—all in candy button brights, ranging from green and raspberry to yellow and tangerine.

Models paraded down a wet, cobbled street resembling a vibrant film set, adorned in tweed newsboy caps that matched their coats, paired with flat leather mary janes featuring statement straps made from pearls or gold buckles.


As a nod to Manchester's Victorian era, some models walked past freshly painted shop fronts on Thomas Street, wearing dresses and tops with leg-of-mutton, butterfly sleeves, high collars, or ruffle fronts—a vision that could have garnered a smile from Queen Victoria herself, whose statue looms over Piccadilly Gardens nearby.

Prior to the show, Chanel engaged in a luxury diplomacy exercise in Manchester. Over the past eight months, the brand collaborated with local businesses and suppliers, generating anticipation among the local audience long before the arrival of the double "C" caravan.

Media outlets covered stories ranging from venue preparations to the lavish gifts deposited in guests' rooms and plans for the after-party at Victoria Baths, a 19th-century architectural marvel. Chanel partnered with Factory International, organizers of the Manchester International Festival, for a three-day exhibition titled "Manchester Modern: Past, Present, Future."

The brand organized literary and poetry events, city tours, visits to The Lowry performing arts space, and explorations of the town center. The night before the show, guests enjoyed an evening at Old Trafford football stadium, witnessing Manchester United's victory over Chelsea 2-1. Dressed in bright red team shirts personalized with their names, guests wore cashmere scarves designed to resemble football strips, featuring Saville's bespoke "MCR" logo alongside Chanel's iconic double "C."

Viard's choice of Manchester, straddling the counties of Lancashire and Cheshire, had multiple motivations. A lover of music, Viard sought an unconventional location for the Métiers d'Art event, showcasing Chanel's specialty ateliers, including Lesage, Massaro, Lemarié, Maison Michel, Lognon, Paloma, and Goossens.

Her familiarity with the region stemmed from Coco Chanel's decade-long affair with Hugh Grosvenor, the second Duke of Westminster. The duke's family estate, Eaton Hall, located an hour's drive from Manchester in Cheshire, served as a frequent retreat for the couple. Chanel drew inspiration from the duke's outdoor wardrobe, particularly his tweeds, and the liveries of the household staff during their visits to Chester Races.

Bruno Pavlovsky, President of Fashion at Chanel, expressed the team's eagerness to explore Manchester, following previous Métiers d'Art shows in diverse locations such as Dakar, Senegal; Tokyo; New York; Dallas; Shanghai; Rome, and Edinburgh, Scotland. The decision to choose Manchester as a backdrop aligned with the desire for a historically rich setting that could inspire the event.

Pavlovsky acknowledged the city's post-industrial history, emphasizing the rebound and vibrant energy emanating from art and music. Old Trafford, filled with enthusiastic fans cheering on Manchester United in cold and drizzly weather, showcased the city's popular energy, as observed by Pavlovsky.

Chanel's guests joined in the excitement, applauding the home team in French and various other languages. The collection heavily featured Chanel's signature tweeds, with Pavlovsky highlighting the house's commitment to sustainable practices. The tweeds, crafted from a mix of virgin and recycled materials, showcased the brand's collaboration with historic English supplier Linton Tweeds and other specialists.

In a broader strategic move, Chanel aimed to strengthen its presence in the U.K. In September, the collaboration with the Victoria and Albert Museum resulted in the unveiling of "Gabrielle Chanel. Fashion Manifesto," the first U.K. exhibition dedicated entirely to the iconic designer. The exhibition traces six decades of Coco Chanel's career, from the opening of her first millinery boutique in Paris in 1910 to her final show in 1971.

Having relocated its global headquarters to London from New York in 2018, Chanel is set to open a new building in Berkeley Square in 2025, housing IT, commercial, business, culture, and non-fashion offices. Additionally, Chanel partnered with The Prince's Foundation, founded by King Charles III, to launch a Métiers d'Art education program at Le19M in Gloucestershire, England, nurturing future artisan embroiderers.

Regarding the collaboration with London-based Farfetch, Pavlovsky affirmed continued collaboration on tech projects, despite Chanel's divestment from the fashion platform. Discussions revolve around initiatives to enhance the future of Chanel's boutiques, including AI tools to better understand customer needs.

In terms of business performance in the U.K., Pavlovsky emphasized its robust nature, with exceptional results during the pandemic years of 2020 and 2021. Viard's collections garnered popularity, and the return of foreign tourists in 2022 further boosted the brand's traction.

Pavlovsky dismissed the notion of a uniform slowdown in the luxury sector, highlighting the inherent unevenness in luxury market demand. Chanel, as a global brand, remains resilient, adapting to varied market conditions and maintaining its position as a prominent player in the luxury fashion landscape.

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