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Chanel's “petites mains”
 
Karl Lagerfeld honours Chanel’s “petites mains”. For the Chanel’s 2016/17 Couture collection défilé, The Kaiser of Fashion brought the whole Chanel Ateliers and its sacred environment, from rue Cambon to the Grand Palais to reinforce the distinction between prêt-à-porter and haute couture. “I thought that was a modern idea to make them participate. They should be shown too.” said Kaiser Karl. Attendees and celebrities including Jessica Chastain, Will Smith and Willow Smith (Chanel ambassador), Milla Jovovich and her daughter Ever, Inès de la Fressange and her daughters Nine and Violette, were treated to a glimpse into this rarified world of haute couture.
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CHANEL's “petites mains”

CHANEL’s behind-the-scenes in motion. “Without the Haute Couture ateliers we wouldn’t make a good collection, we need them and I love to work with them,” said The Kaiser of Fashion. And for the Chanel’s 2016/17 Couture collection, Lagerfeld paid a beautiful tribute to these exceptional “living human treasures” which elaborate handwork - it’s not unusual for a single look to take upwards of 300 hours to produce -  transform a designer’s dress into a sumptuous  showpiece of luxury.

Head of Chanel’s fashion house since 1983, couture legend Karl Otto Lagerfeld brilliantly intertwines the legacy of Gabrielle ‘Coco’ Chanel with his own vision for the House all the while marrying fashion, art, history, and even technology. Aided by the virtuosity of the petites mains, this marriage of heritage and modernity is beautifully brought to life with each new collection. In recognition of their work, and as a way to identify the “dna” of each garment, the labels in the clothes from the atelier each woman looks after bears their name. By definition, haute couture means “fashion that is constructed by hand from start to finish, made from high quality, expensive, often unusual fabric and sewn with extreme attention to detail and finished by the most experienced and capable sewers, often using time-consuming, hand-executed techniques.” It is in part this handwork and savoir faire that explains why haute couture garments come with astronomical price tags: upward of  25,000 Euros for a suit, while a heavily embroidered and intricate evening gown can cost several hundred thousand Euros. “Very often when people begin to think that haute couture will disappear, quite the opposite happens,Bruno Pavolvsky, Chanel’s president, told AnOther. “Haute couture, for Chanel at least, and I hope for the others, is a concentration of everything. It’s a lot about research and development, about new limits in design, new limits in the selection of the fabrics. The studio takes the time it needs to ensure that every silhouette is perfect. We have about 1,000 potential haute couture customers in the world, more than there were 10 to 15 years ago. These customers want to have this very special link with the brand. There are more and more people in the world who want such rare products… Cars, houses and so forth. Haute couture is part of that.” Chanel headhunters scout Paris’s specialist schools – most famously the Chambre Syndicale de la Couture Parisienne’s own and, for younger seamstresses, the Lycee Octave Feullet – in search of gifted interns who, should they survive the stringent training, will take haute couture into the future. “We have found a new generation of people who are interested in working in this way with us,” Pavlovsky said.

Karl Lagerfeld's Interview
Chanel Couture’s four ateliers – two flou, two tailoring – are based at 31 rue Cambon,  each with a première d’atelier who oversees everything. Presently, Olivia Douchez  and Cécile Ouvrard are in charge of the two flou ateliers while Jacqueline Mercier and Josette Peltier are in charge of the tailoring ateliers. Olivia Douchez worked for nine years at Givenchy before moving to Chanel while Josette Peltier, before arriving at Chanel nine years ago, was with Yves Saint Laurent for 15 years, with Azzedine Alaïa for five before that and – briefly – at Jean-Paul Gaultier in the first place. These, it goes without saying, are first category pedigrees.

Fall-Winter 2016/17 Haute Couture CHANEL Show

Chanel shows are always must-see events and though the House’s défilées often land in far-flung destinations — Havana, Cuba, for Resort 2017, or a Chanel airport installed in the Grand Palais, for Spring 2016 — for this Fall/Winter 2016-17 couture presentation, Karl Lagerfeld turned inward, instead of outward to reinforce the distinction between prêt-à-porter and haute couture. King Karl unveiled the sheer detail, human engagement and savoir faire that make a couture collection. In a touching tribute to the Maison’s “petite mains”, the Grand Palais was transformed into a meticolous replica of the ateliers of the 31 rue Cambon in which some of the most incredible garments are created, with tables, sewing machines, mirrors, pins, fabrics, multi-colored threads, toiles and mannequins recreated down to the smallest detail.  The premières, were joined by their seconds and the 78 seamstresses that makeup the House of CHANEL in this tableaux. During the show, they  worked as if they were in rue Cambon, making exquisite garments as the models walked passed them wearing their amazing creations and the audience watched the behind-the-scenes in motion. “I thought that was a modern idea to make them participate. They should be shown too.” said Karl Lagerfeld. Finally, Karl invited them all to join him as he took a bow. Attendees and celebrities including Jessica Chastain, Will Smith and Willow Smith (Chanel ambassador), Milla Jovovich and her daughter Ever, Inès de la Fressange and her daughters Nine and Violette, were treated to a glimpse into this rarified world of haute couture.

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