"These shows have indeed evolved and are now becoming a key moment for us in terms of expressing our core values of creativity and craftsmanship, but also in terms of business development and strategy," Bruno Pavlovsky, Chanel's CEO told us. "These collections are momentous for us as they not only honour our know-how but also the relationship that Mademoiselle Chanel had personally with these specific locations, or the importance this city has for us and our future development."
Having initially started showing in its native Paris, the house has taken the world's fashion press around the world in the pursuit of excellence - from Edinburgh to Ginza, New York to Shanghai - and last night's show was every bit as extraordinary as the ones that have gone before. Set in the Italian capital's iconic Cinecittà film studios, Karl Lagerfeld recreated a black-and-white Parisian square for the models to stroll around while at the same time inviting attendees to become a part of the set. This elimination of "the fourth wall" is a tried-and-tested theatrical technique by Chanel and the importance of it isn't lost on Pavlovksy.
"The popularity of these shows stems from the fact that it is an immersive experience and we take people on a journey, we explore the possibilities offered by the location and strengthen its links to Chanel's cultural heritage," he continued, referencing the house's - and Lagerfeld's - dedication to making everything it does point back to something in the life of its founder, Gabrielle "Coco" Chanel (in this case Chanel owned an apartment on Via Giulia, Rome, from where she enjoyed the company of her contemporaries including artist Jean Cocteau, director Luchino Visconti and actress Jeanne Moreau). "It is a key moment for Karl Lagerfeld and the studio who also cherish these events where they can express their creativity and the Métiers d'Art's outside of the fashion calendar. All of our creative people focus their energy on being able to create this event and make it unique each time - from the magic of the location, the modernity and refinement of the collection to the spectacular décor."
The global locations are, admits Pavlovsky, "a challenge in terms of logistics", but, since the annual Métiers d'Artand Cruise collections are a smaller affair than the bi-annual ready-to-wear extravaganza held in Paris's Grand Palais, the intimacy and personal encounter with the Chanel narrative that they afford makes it all worthwhile (that is not to say it is any less popular - according to Pavlovsky each show sees "more and more people making requests").
"The show is the starting point for all of our stories," Pavlovksy continued. "It is an embodiment of the creativity of the house. Karl Lagerfeld is always innovating and has total freedom to design his collections and the way they are showcased. Our shows participate in the story that Karl Lagerfeld wants to convey; all aspects of these events from the show venue, décor, entertainment we offer our guests, and of course to the collection itself come together as a whole to create an cohesive and impactful narrative."
As for the type of audience that the Métiers d'Art collection attracts, Pavlovsky believes that due to the level of expertise and craftsmanship that it presents, it entices "an audience that is looking for sophistication and exclusivity", one that is also "attracted by the magic of the brand and by the creativity" - although he noted that social media is an valued commodity that makes it possible to "share this privileged moment and make it more visible to a global audience".
The presence of Freja Beha Ericson and Lara Stone on the catwalk, as well asRooney Mara and Chanel ambassador Kristen Stewart in the audience, last night certainly captured the Instagram army, but notably this is a show that always manages to elevate the collections above the fanfare. Last night's darkly romantic collection - showcasing the most delicate of hand-embroidered lace, heritage tailored tweeds, Fair Isle knits, wet-look leather and tiers of chandelier embellishment, as well as the first outing for Lagerfeld's new mule shoe silhouette, complete with a snake entwined around the heel - once again exalted the artistry and technique of the house's petit mains.
"By shedding light on the work and skills of the Métiers d'Art and ensuring their continued development, we are proving our commitment to preserve quality, sophistication and exclusivity and to enrich creation," concluded Pavlovksy. "Our whole industry feels the importance of these houses and what is at stake if they were not supported - now more than ever."