French luxury fashion house Chanel descended upon the streets of Manchester on Thursday evening (8 December), staging a catwalk for its annual Métiers d’Art fashion show in the city’s Northern Quarter.
Métiers d’Art, the title given to the annual Chanel collection, means “art professions”. Each year it pays homage to the small specialist workshops that Chanel began buying in 1984, to reflect the company’s desire to preserve craftsmanship associated with French luxury.
The Parisian fashion house flies the event to a different location each year, with previous cities including New York, Rome, Dakar, Salzburg, Dallas and its home turf. The event was last in the UK when it was staged at Linlithgow Castle in Scotland in 2012.
Manchester’s musical legacy and “creative energy” are what attracted the Chanel executives to the city, Bruno Pavlovsky, Chanel’s president of fashion, told the BBC.
“Too many things happen in London and we wanted to be in the UK out of London,” he said. “We decided to come to Manchester because it was the most inspiring for Virginie [Viard, creative director]. She was inspired by the music and art that she sees here in Manchester, and we’ve had a warm welcome.”
The fashion house was keen to reference its newfound surroundings: the show’s soundtrack was designed around Manchester-based musicians including bands like The Fall, New Order and contemporary local rappers including Aitch and Bugzy Malone.
The young Gallagher brothers – not the Mancunian Oasis brothers – but Liam’s two sons Gene, 22, and Lennon, 24, who were joined by Noel’s daughter Anais.
On the catwalk, models wore tweed baker boy cap with matching pastel-coloured suits and flat Mary Jane’s, all of which were in keeping with Chanel’s iconic feminine suit silhouette pioneered and popularised in the mid-Fifties.
It was at the Cheshire country home of Coco Chanel’s lover, the Duke of Westminster, that the designer borrowed tweed jackets for walks on the estate. Chanel, who fell in love with the fabric, famously took it to Paris and put it at the heart of the company’s iconic tweed suits that she pioneered when she reopened her couture business in 1953, aged 70, after a 14 year hiatus from the fashion industry.
The BBC reports that while Chanel has compensated local businesses on the street, those local shops and pubs had to close for up to two weeks as the company moved in to set up the catwalk operation.
Councillor Luthfur Rahman, Manchester’s cabinet member for culture, has not disclosed how much the company had paid the city, but said it had “invested in the city” and that the event would help the local economy.
“The fact that Chanel have chosen to come to Manchester demonstrates that we’re doing something right,” he said, adding that the show was “great” for the city’s ambition to become a global destination.
However, some local residents felt that the luxury fashion spectacle, which is estimated to have cost millions of pounds, was ill-judged given that many locals are feeling the effects of the cost of living crisis. Meanwhile, a protester outside held a sign calling on the city council to get its “priorities sorted” – with the slogan: “Food or heat! Not luxury goods.”