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Chanel has presented its Métiers D’Art collection in Dakar, Senegal. The French house is the first major luxury brand to show in sub-Saharan Africa. It has done so with an extensive collection that highlights the talent of the artisans of the country that was formerly a French colony.

“Dakar is an influential artistic capital on the international scene, especially in all the fields we hold dear, such as fashion, cinema, dance, literature, contemporary art and music,” Chanel itself says. Being “more than a fashion show”, they emphasise, this series of events has been designed with the sole purpose of “paying tribute to this artistic strength”, for which “it seems fundamental to us to maintain a long-term approach”. “In all its dimensions”, they add, the fashion show is presented as “the starting point for a permanent exchange between Chanel and Senegal”. 

This tribute to Senegal goes beyond a one-off catwalk show, as Chanel explains. Chanel’s idea is to plan and execute a series of business activities with various organisations in the African country, a former French colony until the 1960s. These actions will be aimed at the development of responsible and regenerative agricultural practices aimed at the production of circular raw materials. And the Chanel Paris Dakar Métiers D’Art fashion show is the starting point. Much more than a presentation, much more than an ode to a country.

The location

The former Palace of Justice in Dakar, the capital of Senegal, was the setting chosen by Virginie Viard to present Chanel’s Metiers d’Art 2022/23 collection. This is the first time that this renowned annual event, which began in 2002 with the aim of recognising the valuable work of the artisan houses that make the Maison’s collections possible, has been held on the African continent. The decision to exhibit the collection there was “the result of meetings three years ago with friends of the house who are in Dakar doing artistic projects, who plan to do so, or who are simply interested in its creative effervescence.” The brand aimed to highlight Senegal’s “fashion, cinema, dance, literature, contemporary art and music”.

The opening performance

The catwalk opened with a performance by local singer Obree Daman and dancers from the École des Sables, an international training centre for traditional and contemporary African dance. The opening was a further celebration of the culture and spirit of Senegal, with stars and close friends of the house of Chanel flying to Senegal to attend the event. Ugandan actress Whitney Peak, model Naomi Campbell, singer, designer and producer Pharrell Williams and Japanese actor Nana Komatsu were among the guests at this very special show.

Embroidery and beading

The creative director looked to the 70s for inspiration for her latest collection Métiers d’Art: flared and tight trousers, fitted coats, studded collars, platform shoes… The colours, silhouettes and more embodied the joyful spirit of the era. Retro shapes coexisted with more contemporary ones such as oversized sweatshirts, denim with logos and patchwork or asymmetrical dresses. The characteristic Chanel motifs, such as tweed, in this case multicoloured, or the camellia flower, were seen in new forms such as embroidery, along with sequins, lace and more.

The campaign and a documentary

As usual, Chanel launched the Métiers d’Art show with a campaign produced entirely by Senegalese creatives.  This time, the brand’s creative director Virginie Viard hired Senegalese photographer Malick Bodian and Sierra Leone-born editor Ib Kamara to focus the campaign, starring models Alaato Jazyper and Loli Bahia. The Parisian house also worked with filmmaker Ladj Ly and students from the Kourtrajme school in Montfermeil and Dakar to produce a documentary series on the collection. Made up of four episodes, the series shows everything from the preparation stages to the execution of the Métiers d’Art show.

The exhibition Picasso & Chanel will come to the Thyssen Museum this autumn.