What To Expect at the History-Making Chanel Show in Dakar

Pharrell Williams presents a creation for Chanel during the 13th Métiers d'Art show on December 6, 2016 in Paris.

Photo: Patrick Kovarik/AFP via Getty Images

What To Expect at the History-Making Chanel Show in Dakar

For the first time ever on African soil, the French luxury house will showcase its Métiers d’art 2023 collection in the Senegalese capital this week.

Even though fashion has been embracing virtual concepts like the metaverse, some classics never go out of style. A prime example of this is Chanel’s Métiers d’art. Existing outside of the official catwalk calendar, the Métiers d’art happens annually to recognize and celebrate the works of specialist artisans and craftspeople that the fashion house has taken under its wings for decades.

While conceived by the late Karl Lagerfeld in 2002, Gabrielle Chanel, during her time, laid the foundation for working closely with ateliers involved in embroidery, shoe-making, millinery, feather work, pleating, and so on. Since acquiring craft houses like Desrues, Lesage and Lemarié, Chanel’s relationship with these specialized workshops remains a commitment to preserve rare manufacturing skills.

Paris, Shanghai, New York, Tokyo, and Monte Carlo are among the places Chanel has taken the Métiers d’art show. Now, the house has hit the road again, staging its African debut in Dakar, Senegal on December 6, 2022.

Why Dakar?

Showcasing the Métiers d’Art collections in Dakar comes right on the heels of Dakar Fashion Week. Marking 20 years, it remains Africa’s longest-running fashion event and continues to position Senegal as a regional fashion player on the continent. While Nigeria and South Africa are often romanticized as top markets, Senegal isn’t without its own notable fashion ecosystem.

Brands like Adama Paris (founded by Adama Ndiaye, organizer of Dakar Fashion Week), Collé Sow Ardo, Tongoro, and Diarrablu are a mix of old and new voices making bold statements in the industry. The francophone African country is also home to the couture legacy of Oumou Sy.

“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,” Chanel said in a press release.

Furthermore, foreign brands like Levis, Hugo Boss and Tommy Hilfiger have looked to Senegal to expand their retail footprint, opening in Dakar’s Sea Plaza shopping mall.

The Métiers d’art collection often takes inspiration from the venue where it's showing. Last year, the event returned to Paris and creative director Virginie Viard displayed a collection catering to Parisian sensibilities. It will be interesting to see how Dakar is woven into the show this time around.

Who’s invited?

The Métiers d’art event is always an exclusive affair, so much so, that in 2020, Kristen Stewart was the sole guest invited to sit front row at the Château de Chenonceau in France's Loire Valley. Granted, the actress is a brand ambassador and the impact of COVID-19 had seen many events go virtual, but this kind of approach is very much in keeping with the intimate setting Chanel is know for creating when it comes to Metiers d'art.

By now, those expected to attend would have received their personalized invitations from the French house, accompanied by gifts, which are usually handcrafted.

The venue, the former Palais de Justice, which played host to the Dakar Biennale earlier this year, will no doubt be a magnificent backdrop for whatever Chanel has planned for this year's show.

What to expect?

Announced back in June, the Métiers d’art enters its 21st year and in Dakar, it will run as a 3-day event that Chanel’s President of Fashion Bruno Pavlovsky has referred to as a “festival.”

This African debut has been in the pipeline for three years, but plans were disrupted because of COVID-19. Pavlovsky has revealed that it will be more than just a show, bringing together local creatives across music, film, and art via a cultural program to transmit technical knowledge between Chanel and artisanal communities in Dakar.

A teaser trailer for the event was created by French Malian filmmaker Ladj Ly and his Kourtrajmé collective, who run a school in Dakar, suggesting they may possibly be involved in the film of this year's show, which will be revealed on Thursday, December 8th 2022 at 1pm Dakar time, 2pm Paris time.

Another key significance of this year's event, according to brand ambassador Pharrell Williams, is the acknowledgement of the history between France and Senegal. “To come there and do the exact opposite of colonization, I thought was quite interesting,” he said at a masterclass held after the Miami Cruise 2022/23 collections show. “Because it’s not just coming here to show. It’s actually working with the artisans, providing so many partnerships. That’s unprecedented.”