Chanel’s Latest Métiers d’Art Collection Fuses French Fashion and West African Tradition

All images courtesy of Chanel.

One radiant December day at the tip of last year, the Senegalese singer Obree Daman led a procession of École des Sables dancers around the refurbished tiled floors of the Ancien Palais de Justice in Dakar, Senegal. “Salam Alaikum Africa,” he belted as the troop criss-crossed clusters of starry-eyed fashion folk who had come to Senegal from across the globe. “Peace be to Africa.” His performers wiggled in agreement, making their way through the historic space.

The performance was not for the Dakar Biennale, Africa’s largest art gathering—which originally revived the fallen Brutalist building after decades of abandonment—but rather another cultural landmark: Chanel’s Métiers d’art 2022/23 runway show, the first European fashion event of its kind in Sub-Saharan Africa.


It’s a precarious undertaking for fashion, considering Senegal's sociopolitical past. Not to mention the limited, if not nonexistent, ties between the country and one of the most quintessentially French maisons. Fortunately, the collection, perhaps Chanel's most important of the year, does not disappoint.

Karl Lagerfeld began Métiers d'art (“art professions”), Chanel’s annual line that celebrates its artisanal workshops and craft specialists, in 2002. Since then, the occasion has become a highly-anticipated moment on the fashion calendar, debuting dreamy creations that live between the worlds of haute couture and ready-to-wear. As the name suggests, these collections grant Chanel’s most esteemed artisans the opportunity to flaunt their skills. But, unlike most products of the avant-garde, the hand-crafted clothing and accessories are wearable, too.


Under the late artistic director, the house presented its Métiers d'art collection everywhere from Salzburg, Austria, to Dallas, Texas. When Virginie Viard, Lagerfeld’s long-time right hand, took the reins after his passing, she collaborated with filmmaker Sofia Coppola to rebuild Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel’s original Rue Cambon salon for the first Métiers d'art of her own. That was just about the time when she conceived the idea for her latest collection. “We've been thinking about it for three years,” explains the designer. “I wanted it to happen gently, over several days of deep, respectful dialoguing.”

At the former palace in Dakar, a site of both French colonial rule and the country’s independent governance, Viard inaugurated a three-day cultural festival, which featured local talents like Daman across music, film, and art, and was anchored by her Métiers d’art 2022/23 collection. The concept behind such a paramount body of work was to layer meaningful Senegalese elements of tradition into the undeniably alluring codes from the fashion house. To round it off, the designer found an “explosion of energy” in what she terms the “pop-soul-funk-disco-punk” motifs of the ‘70s. “Real dialogues,” says Viard of the inspirations as a whole, that were “nourished over the long-term."


Arriving in boutiques this June, Viard’s Métiers d’art 2022/23 collection consummates the unique savoir faire of the fashion house with the spirit of Dakar. A plethora of natural motifs throughout the 62 looks call to mind not only the romantic symbols from Chanel’s archive, but also the fauna seen that day in December at the Palais de Justice. Feminine tweed ensembles, made by Maison Lesage, Paris's oldest embroidery atelier, and retro flared trousers are decorated by ornate camellias imaged by resident feather and flower maker, Lemarié. Vibrant embroidery crafted by specialist Atelier Montex adorns the line in the vivid hues of the Senegalese landscape. To top it off, layered beads and pearls finished by house goldsmith Goossens recall the tradition of African beadwork and the glamor of the house’s eponym. “It is this human and warm dimension that motivates my work and that I try to re-transcribe. I put all my soul into it,” says Viard of its inception. “These marvelous encounters from which artistic adventures like this one are born—that's what drives me.”

In keeping with tradition, each Métiers d’art occasion is memorialized in different and unique ways. December’s runway was finaled with a musical performance by South African DJ and producer Mandisa Radebe, and over the course of the following three days, other Dakar-based creatives collaborated with Chanel on programming. Though the fashion house has not yet revealed the location for the next Métiers d’art debut, Chanel’s other destination show, Cruise 2023/24 Ready-to-Wear, took place this May in Los Angeles, where it has just welcomed a new boutique in Beverly Hills.