All Hail The Petites Mains

And so we come to Chanel’s AW16 -7 haute couture show, which took place back in July. 

How often have I typed the words “petite mains” on this blog?  Or “atelier”?  Or “craftsmanship”?  You’ll have to bear with this broken record of mine because they’re words that constantly bear repeating.  Even if within the fashion industry, those words are thrown at us consistently to the point where the seasoned journalist becomes weary, but beyond that, it’s still a special insight into a world that isn’t necessarily widely known about.  Case in point, anytime I put up a video of a craftsman or woman working away in an atelier on Instagram, the pouring-in of love is evident.  Whilst there may be a hardened cynicism over the nuts and bolts of the business of fashion, at the very least, there’s still still unadulterated admiration for what skilled hands can do.

It’s a collection that has a life in it that goes beyond that sin

gular show, because as I learnt, orders for haute couture pieces were still being taken at trunk show events in London, Hong Kong and Dubai as late as mid October(I believe the collection is currently in Hong Kong), and the meticulous fitting and making process means that orders are still being fulfilled long into the next year.  See now – buy for a good half a year or so – wear forever… it’s buying pattern based on patience and longevity.  Despite the selling beginning as soon as the show finishes, I love that the process and lifeline of the collection extends far beyond that.

 

This particular collection spelled out all that hard work, back and forth fittings and waiting in a way that was literal.  No razz-ma-tazz mechanical set or kitschy theme.  Instead you took the time to round the circular catwalk, looking at the very real petite mains, drafting up calico toiles, pattern cutting, handling pieces of embroidery from Lesage, draping on the mannequin – all related to the collection that would be shown.  The set-up mirrored the ateliers down to the minutiae of personal knick knacks of the seamstresses, chains of thread bobbins and paperwork that accompanies this very real and working atelier.  In a way this collection carries on neatly from the ‘eco’ couture of the SS16 collection with its zen message.  Here, the takeaway was, “Look at the hours of work work that goes into this fifteen minute show.” 

Flash forward to September in London, and the collection was made available for prospective clients to see up close, in all its pleated and embroidered glory.  Despite SS17 ready to wear shows taking place, Chanel’s AW16 haute couture is in the midst of its world tour, going directly to the customers that couldn’t make it to Paris for the show.  Orders and fittings were being done in London ready for the ateliers in

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