Dakar is the perfect city to host Chanel’s latest Métiers d’art collection, not least because of the city’s historic links to craftsmanship, textiles and culture. As the first European or American fashion house to organise a show in sub-Saharan Africa, Chanel didn’t just camp out for a few days to decorate the city as a backdrop, but created a genuine collaboration with the Senegalese communities that, like the life of the Chanel piece itself, will last for years to come. For more than three years, Virginie Viard and her team have been preparing for the show , and at the end of Dakar Fashion Week, a week-long cultural exchange with local creatives, writers and talents took place. The show was held in the former Palais de Justice, now home to the Dakar Art Biennale, in a mid-century room.
The collection lacked the sartorial clichés that are common when a European fashion house wants to “glorify” Africa, and which often turn into symbolism. It was a delicate semi-couture collection that intertwined subtle historical and cultural references created by the technical craftsmen of Chanel’s Parisian atelier le19M.
Almost every look was completed with a multitude of accessories, adding to the eclectic feel and reminiscent of Dakar’s bustling and colourful markets. Lion motifs on jewellery and bags symbolised not only Coco Chanel’s mark, but also the emblem of Senegal. Chains with African drums and surfboards, as well as gold cuffs chiselled in the shape of the continent, were also subtle talismans linking the clothes to the host city.
After the show, Chanel President Bruno Pavlovsky announced the start of a long-term exchange of handicrafts between le19M and the IFAN Museum of African Art in Dakar. This collaboration ensures that the cultural dialogue between Paris and Dakar will continue long after the clothes leave the shop shelves.
You can see the collection HERE