It started at a ’50s-style drive-in and finished in a rodeo hall, but with all the amped-up glam you’d expect when a fabled French house descends upon the Big D: With the premiere of its latest Metiers d’Art collection on Tuesday night at Fair Park in Dallas, Chanel served up a spectacle worthy of its Texas locale, capped by Karl Lagerfeld’s magical take on prairie chic, via the artful skills of Parisian handicraft.
Of course, Chanel always pulls out the stops for these once-a-year road shows (past Metiers d’Art collections have debuted in Scotland and Shanghai), with the details combining to create an undeniable sense of the surreal. In the “Paris-Dallas” Drive-In that preceded the show, Dakota Fanning (wearing a delicate, origami-like dress from Fall/Winter 2013 haute couture) and Kristen Stewart (who was announced Wednesday as the new face for Chanel, and here donned a decidedly more casual crop top and high-waisted leather trousers from Spring/Summer 2014) shared one vintage car, while Lagerfeld climbed into the backseat of another with Anna Wintour (Andre Leon Talley sat in the front seat in a gold caftan). Lauren Hutton, meanwhile, posed on the hood of a shiny vintage convertible, looking pretty smashing as she giddily showed off her thigh-high quilted Chanel boots. A bevy of Chanel-bedecked beauties also were in attendance, including the label’s favored "It" girls -- Alexa Chung, Zoe Kravitz, Lily Collins and Poppy Delevingne —plus one "Always-It" girl, legendary Houston socialite Lynn Wyatt, whom Lagerfeld noted was a key inspiration for the collection.
The expected photo scrum of these moments soon gave way to the reason for this Last Picture Show-inspired setting: the premiere of The Return, the Lagerfeld-directed 25-minute film starring Charlie's daughter, Geraldine Chaplin (who also was in attendance), as Coco Chanel. The Return offers a dual meaning fans of the brand should appreciate, exploring Coco's mid-’50s comeback— her return to fashion-world dominance — which ultimately was aided largely by Stanley Marcus, whose father and aunt had founded Neiman Marcus in Dallas in 1907; named the store’s president and CEO in 1950, Stanley was an early champion of Chanel’s comeback collection and in 1957 famously invited her to Dallas to receive an award bestowed by the retail giant. The house’s return 56 years later was Lagerfeld’s way of paying tribute to that long-ago turning point.
Following the film, the crowd was herded — pun intended! — into the adjacent Centennial Hall for the unspooling of Metiers d’Art itself. This pre-fall “art of the hands” collection is always rooted in showcasing the talents of Chanel’s 11 satellite ateliers, from the intricate beadings and embroideries of Lesage, seen here in the lush boucle jackets (a red, white and blue number affixed with seemingly millions of tiny stars surely will go quickly in the Lone Star State), to the narrow-brimmed Stetson-esque hats crafted at the millinery house Michel; and from the gold-tipped cowboy boots cobbled at Massaro, where everyone from Marlene Dietrich to the Duchess of Windsor had their shoes handmade, to the pristine white feathered headdress that became the bridal veil of the finale look, produced by Lemarie, the flower and feather house that also creates Chanel’s iconic camellias.
This showcase is ultimately the true purpose of the evening and is always woven through its chosen locale. Whether or not you ultimately will be a fan of ultra-luxe prairie skirts or Navajo-inspired prints, one cannot help but appreciate how the storied French label continues to uphold its dedication not merely to handicraft, but to Parisian-focused handicraft. As Chaplin-as-Coco says in The Return, “Good taste is something spiritual.”