On the heels of its Cruise 2023 Replica show in Miami on Nov. 4, Chanel is set to present its latest Métiers d'Art collection — which spotlights the work of its specialized maisons, many of which are housed in its 19M complex in the outskirts of Paris — in Dakar, Senegal on Dec. 6.
This marks the first time the luxury French fashion house has st a runway show in Africa. Chanel historically hasn't had a presence anywhere on the continent (no stand-alone stores, save for a Fragrance & Beauty boutique in Cape Town, South Africa), but at a "master class" following the Cruise 2023 Replica in Miami, President of Fashion Bruno Pavlovsky said it had been "thinking of how to go there" for many years.
Dakar, like many other cities across Africa, has its own fashion week (which actually runs until right before Chanel is set to come to town) and thriving industry. Senegal also is renowned within West Africa for craftsmanship and artisanal traditions.
Earlier in the "master class," brand ambassador Pharrell Williams was asked about how Chanel engages with marginalized communities and works to reduce that margin, so to speak. Without naming it outright, he alluded to the upcoming Dakar show: "They're taking it all the way back to the essence in a big way."
When and where
The Chanel 2023 Métiers d'Art show will take place on Dec. 6 in Dakar.
When it was first announced in June, the brand said: "By choosing Dakar, the House wishes to make the savoir-faire of its Métiers d’Art resonate with the artistic and cultural energy of the city."
The exact location hasn't been revealed just yet.
Pharrell's surprise role
In Miami, Pavlovsky spoke about a conversation between himself, Williams and then-creative director Karl Lagerfeld years ago in Japan, wherein they discussed Chanel's presence in Africa. For Williams, though, it went back even farther than that.
"When I first started working with Chanel, it had been a dream of mine," he told the "master class" audience. "I was intimidated to ask, because I don't think a fashion house had been to that part of Africa before. But I asked Karl."
The late designer was open to the idea, and Williams kept bringing it back up.
"Karl was so smart and so meticulous about the choices he made, who he partnered with and where he wanted to take things," he said. "[It] got serious when we had our conversation in Japan, and they were telling me, 'We have to plan this out. We have to do this right...' This has been years and years and years and years."
What to expect
Pavlovsky recalled conversations with Virginie Viard about turning this idea into reality around three years ago, only to have them interrupted by the pandemic. Now, the house is ready — and it's going big.
The Métiers d’Art show will be the anchor of a larger, three-day event that Pavlovsky and Williams refer to as a "festival." It'll bring together friends of the house — including Williams — and local creatives across music, film and art. The event will also mark the beginning of a larger connection between Chanel and Senegal, including a program that connects 19M with artisans, students and more. (More details to come.)
"Dakar is an influential artistic capital on the international scene, particularly in areas held dear to the house, such as fashion, film, dance, music, literature and contemporary art," the brand said in a press release following the "master class." "More than just a show, this event will be part of a three-day cultural program accompanied by concrete action in terms of creative dialogue, sustainable development and the transmission of savoir-faire."
"It's a challenging project, but at the same time, we're so pleased to be, for the first time, in Senegal, in Dakar, with this program," Pavlovsky said.
A big part of the event will be acknowledging the history between France and Senegal. "For me, it's interesting because Senegal was once occupied by the French. It's not lost on them that this was once a French colony," Williams said. "To come there and do the exact opposite of colonization was very interesting. Because it's not just coming there to do a show. It's actually providing so many partnerships... That's unprecedented."
Disclosure: Chanel paid for Fashionista's travel and accommodations to attend the Cruise 2023 Replica show, where the "master class" took place.