Chanel celebrated the ethos of its Métiers d’art 2022/2023 show location of Dakar with a vibrant collection, putting the clothes front and centre of a cultural conversation
Dakar made perfect sense as the host city of Chanel’s latest Métiers d’art collection, not least because of the city’s historic relationship with craftsmanship, textiles and culture. The first European or US fashion house to stage a show in Sub-Saharan Africa, more than just setting up camp for a few days to steal the city as a backdrop, Chanel created an authentic collaboration with Senegalese communities that, much like the life of a Chanel piece itself, will last for years to come. Over three years in the making for Virginie Viard and her team (plans started pre-pandemic), the show followed a week-long series of culture exchanges with local creatives, writers and talent presented on the tail-end of Dakar Fashion Week. Held at the former Palais de Justice (now home to Dakar’s art biennial), the mid-century space hosted the show that opened with a joyous parade of contemporary African dancers from the École des Sables, led by Obree Daman and his choir singing Salam Alaikum Africa!,setting an energetic rhythm that continued throughout the collection.
Absent were the sartorial clichés often present when a European fashion house wants to ‘celebrate’ Africa, which often lands as tokenism. Here was a sensitive, semi-couture collection interweaving subtle historical and cultural references conjured up by the technical wizardry of the Chanel-owned le19M ateliers in Paris. A tweed boucle coat with specks of red, green and yellow paid homage to the colors of the Senegalese flag, while intricately beaded vests and heavily embellished jackets captured the continent’s spirited flair. Viard looked to the vibrant dandyism of Congo’s ‘Sapeur’ subculture which drummed tweed suits and tailoring with a menswear beat, while a carefree 1970s mood, the result of Viard looking to the iconic photography of Malick Sidibé for inspiration, came in the form of wide-legged pants, commando-soled ‘uncle’ shoes and a warm sepia-toned colour palette of burnt ochres, chocolate browns and tangerines.
Nearly every look was heavily styled with layers of accessories, packing an eclectic punch that was reminiscent of Dakar’s bustling and colorful markets. Lion motifs on jewellery and bags signified not just the sign of Coco Chanel but the emblem of Senegal. Chain charms of African drums and surfboards, and gold cuffs sculpted with the shape of the continent, also presented subtle talismanic nods connecting the clothes to the host city.
Most importantly, following the show Chanel’s President Bruno Pavlovsky announced a series of long-running artisanal exchanges between le19M and Dakar’s IFAN Museum of African Arts. The collaboration ensures that the cultural conversation between Paris and Dakar will continue long after the clothes have left the shelves. Discover MOJEH’s shoot with the collection in the gallery above and rewatch the show here
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- Words by Kate Hazell