Over the course of her nearly three years at the helm of Chanel — yes, it's been nearly three years, proving time is, in fact, fake — Virginie Viard has shown, by and large, that she does her best work for the house when designing the couture-oriented collections. Whether it's actual haute couture or the Métiers d'Art line, Viard seems perfectly happy to let the skilled handiwork lead her designs, and not the other way around. (Undoubtedly, that's at least somewhat due to her own start as a worker at François Lesage, the Chanel-owned embroidery company).
"The samples are a starting point: either they are assigned to certain pieces, or they will inspire others. There are no rules," she told The New York Times.
That appreciation was on full display at Chanel's 2022 Métiers d'Art runway on Tuesday, shown quite fittingly at the house's new 19M complex; the French fashion juggernaut recently completed the building to bring 11 of its specialists (including embroiderer Lesage, shoemaker Massaro, feather- and flower-maker Lemarié, milliner and hatter Maison Michel, pleater Lognon, flou specialist Paloma and goldsmith Goossens) together under one roof. It continues Chanel's legacy of honoring its many artisans, beginning with the decision to launch Métiers d'Art in 2002 as a way to showcase the breadth of their work.
But the specialists themselves have perhaps never been so literally a source of inspiration as they were on Tuesday. The 2022 Métiers d'Art collection is "very metropolitan yet sophisticated, with tweed jackets with sweatshirt sleeves, graffiti-style embroidery in coloured beads by Lesage, voluminous purple or royal blue knit Bermuda short-outfits, and casual coats worn open," per Viard. "Many of the embroideries are inspired by the structure of the building itself, such as those by Montex, which are very graphic and in silver sequins."
It's one of Viard's most cohesive collections to date. She has long been a fan of what I'd call a challenging silhouette; think knit Bermuda shorts, maxi-length dresses with no defined waist, baggy jeans with an elastic waistband. They're tricky to pull off when balanced with her more commercial instincts. Those are all present here, too, but they looked much better tempered by the delicate craftwork of the maisons. A matching camel knit-and-legging set called to mind the bodysuits created for the Spring 2021 collection, but got a sophisticated upgrade layered under a shaggy cape and armfuls of ornate bangles; capri-length leggings were much more successful paired with sweeping, floor-length tweed coats than they were with miniskirts.
More importantly, there were some truly covetable pieces in the mix. There will almost certainly be a mad dash for those double-C cardigans and for that double-C pleated miniskirt, no matter the cost (and for the latter, that price will probably be high; it's reportedly the most complicated pleating job Lognon has ever done for Chanel). More nods to the Gen-Z customer came with micro belts at the occasionally bare waist, which featured tiny bows; and those giant black hair bows, so haphazardly placed, will surely fly off shelves. Also chic were Viard's maxi-length skirts opened high up the thigh.
Viard's commitment to her specific silhouettes sometimes means her collections bleed into one another and become forgetful. Not so with Métiers d'Art 2022: This felt like the closest she's come to a home run in several seasons.
See the complete Chanel Métiers d'Art 2022 collection in the gallery below: