On December 6th, Chanel unveiled the 2022-23 Métiers d’Art collection in Dakar, Senegal’s West African capital.
This is the first time that European or US luxury fashion brands have staged a fashion show in sub-Saharan Africa. The venue for the show was the Senegalese capital’s former Palais de Justice (now home to its art Biennale).
The 2022-2023 Metiers d’Art collection features colorful costumes informed by Congo’s sartorialist Sapeur subculture. Also, it has pantsuits that carry on the spirit of the 1970s, vests adorned with colorful beads, geometric patterns skirts, flared jeans, tiered skirts, platform shoes, and more. These items included patchwork with flower motifs such as camellias, glittering embroidery using pearls, sequins, rhinestones, and multi-colored tweed, and all of them were imbued with very “likeness” of the brand.
Actually, this show was part of a cultural event held for three days and was a complex event that also included workshops.
About 850 guests gathered in the former Palais de Justice, Including celebrities such as Pharrell Williams, Naomi Campbell, Whitney Peak, Nile Rogers, Princess Caroline of Monaco, and her daughter Charlotte Casiraghi. The audience gave a big round of applause to the works that perfectly combined the maximalist approach, retro mood, and allure and savoir-faire unique to Chanel.
Building long-term and good relationships with local people
Senegal used to be a French colony in the past, but there is a reason why the local people willingly accepted the French Maison despite such historical facts. Chanel is a Maison that has long valued the cultural savoir-faire rooted in each country. This collection is also realized by the brand team working with local artists. The show opened with performances by Senegalese singer Obree Daman and students from École des Sables school run by Senegalese dancer and choreographer Germaine Acogny. The brand lookbook was shot by Senegalese photographer Malick Bodian, while Kourtrajmé, a film school founded by French director Ladj Ly that has a branch in Dakar, produced a series of videos around the collection.
“I don’t think Chanel came here to force anything upon us. We cannot accept anyone coming to colonize us again, let this be clear.” Acogny said at a talk for students held the following day.
Creative director Virginie Viard said, “I wanted a creative exchange and I thought that would work well with the Métiers d’Art collection.” She said the intention was to foster long-term relationships. “I know that all the people here will be working with us again,” Viard added.
Before the show starts, Pharrel Williams -Chanel’s ambassador since 2015 – put, “There’s a serendipity in it being a French Maison, and coming back to a place that was once colonized by the French, with a sense of equity… it’s a super-beautiful exercise in humanity.”
In addition, the majority of the audience at the show in Paris so far has been wearing head-to-toe “Chanel”, however, this time many guests dressed in a combination of African designer clothes alongside Chanel bags and accessories. “I’ve gone to many Chanel fashion shows. It’s been almost 10 years so I haven’t seen it all, but I thought I had, and I’ve got to tell you, this by far has had the most amazing fashion sense in terms of attendance, the best-dressed audience,” Williams Williams praised about the crowd’s styling.
Future possibilities of West Africa envisioned by Chanel
Today, there are no Chanel stores in West Africa, including Senegal.
Bruno Pavlovsky, president of fashion and president of Chanel SAS, said that while Chanel has many customers in West Africa, the time is not yet ripe for opening stores.
“There is still an important gap between the average standard of living in these big cities and what you find in Europe or the United States,” Pavlovsky said. “We’re not here to do business, we’re here to participate in and benefit from the creative energy here in Dakar.”
Additionally, the brand is planning to source organic cotton from Senegalese farmers as a partnership in its sustainability efforts. They expect that within the next three to five years, there would be able to cover part of their needs with cotton from Senegal produced in good conditions at a fair price, but now the quality needs to improve to meet their requirements.
With this show, Chanel has taken the first step toward building a long-term and good relationship with West Africa.