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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Chanel celebrates Africa

By Iris Edén Santiago

Special to The Star

Chanel’s recent visit to Africa must have produced good relations between the fashion elite in both Africa and France. Here’s hoping it also promotes real opportunities for artists and designers in the two countries going forward.

For starters, we have discovered a new side to the French House of Couture: a colorful collection full of flair, soul, cultural richness and fashion combinations unthinkable for this luxury label before this collaboration.

The “Métier d’Art 2023” fashion extravaganza was held at the former Palais de Justice in Dakar, the coastal capital of Senegal, making Chanel the first European fashion house to stage a show in Africa.

The proposal is bohemian, hip, retro and visually captivating. It includes tweed suits, tweed dresses and tweed garments, of course. But in this collection tweed acquires unexpected levels of diversity. It’s a new life for the firm’s signature fabric. Creative Director Virginie Viard was very respectful with the local culture, so her team integrated local artisans and textile makers to provide the craftsmanship, and fabulous artisanal details that only authentic African maestros can make. The result? Chanel, but modern, trendy, a little rebel and very relaxed. Wraparound skirts made with contrasting combinations of mosaic-like fabrics, denim, tweed, tiny tile-beaded textiles and geometric fabrics are gorgeous. The African influences are inspired. Their culture is embraced. This collection celebrates African heritage.

We loved the oversize lapels, the glitzy tunics layered over trousers, the dresses with double skirts and the peplums. The lace dress in white over white is jaw-dropping gorgeous, as is the romantic midi dress in flowy tiers of coral and charcoal with metallic piping. The tweed sarong skirt with beaded front panel worn over a collared white shirt and slim pants is winning. Also loving the tweed pink suit over a metallic bralette. Chic, empowered and glam. Metal bras a thing? Stay tuned.

The color palette didn’t kill me. A little dim. Inspired by the 1970s, there is a lot of gray, brown, mustard, black, forest, muted plum and mauve. Colors aside, the young silhouettes and pops of cool red and coral make it a solid proposal.

“Dakar is an influential artistic capital on the international scene, particularly in areas held dear to the house, such as fashion, film, dance, music, literature and contemporary art,” Chanel said in a statement. “More than just a show, this event is part of a three-day cultural program accompanied by concrete action in terms of creative dialogue, sustainable development and the transmission of savoir-faire.”

Launched by Chanel’s late creative director Karl Lagerfeld 20 years ago to spotlight the work of its in-house workshops, the Métiers d’Art collection has traditionally been a traveling show that has alighted in locations including Shanghai; Edinburgh, Scotland; Salzburg, Austria; and Havana, Cuba.

The collection will be available in Chanel boutiques around the world in May 2023.

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