Chanel unveils 19M, its new Métiers d’Art headquarters
In a symbolic gesture to raise the flag, Bruno Pavlovsky, president of Chanel Fashion and President of Chanel SAS, introduced 19M on a windy and wet Monday night to around 100 people: editors; local politicians; artisans and local artists.
The triangular 25,000 square-meter building will group together an irreplaceable collection of specialist companies – some dating back to the mid-19th century – expert suppliers of embroidery; feathers; plissé fabrics; pearls; boots and gloves to couture and high-end ready-to-wear houses.
“A year ago we posed the first stone, a symbol of a long love story between Chanel and all these great artisans. Why do we call it 19M? Because M for Métiers d’Art; M for la mode (fashion), M for le main (hand) and M for maison (fashion house) and manufacture, showing our absolute attachment to these artisans. And 19 because we are in the 19th arrondissement and because it was the day that Gabrielle Chanel was born,” explained Pavlovsky.
When it opens in one year’s time, 19M will house some 600 employees, bringing together 10 of the specialist houses within Chanel’s Paraffection division – which totals some 25 different companies. Among those moving in will be Lesage Intérieurs and its embroidery arts school; the Montex atelier and MTX, its decoration department; shoemaker Massaro; feather and flower expert Lemarié; milliner Maison Michel; pleater Lognon; along with the creative department of Eres, the swimwear line of the extended Chanel group.
Pavlovsky called for 19M to be “an open house, a place of meeting diversity… A center where artisans, the public, schools and students and lovers of art in the neighborhood can meet.” 19M also includes a soaring 1,200-square-meter exhibition space where this ceremony was held.
The new structure is built on a huge 9,000 square-meter site at Place Skanderbeg, a windy traffic circle perched over the Périphérique ring road of Paris in Aubervilliers, a funky northern suburb which has a Communist mayor. 19M was designed by Rudy Ricciotti, the French architect best known for the cuboid Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilisations, noted for the lattice work of reinforced concrete surrounding it.
Something similar is going on at 19M, which will be enveloped by soaring 24-meter-high concrete threads, evoking luxury textiles, the heart of fashion. Privately-held Chanel declined to say how much the building cost.
“I have always given preference in my building sites to French companies, employment and materials. Not those from China, Turkey or Bangladesh. This is not an extreme right-wing discourse, but a speech by a patriot who loves his country… However, I see this project as eminently political. Chanel produces and defends French savoir-faire here in Paris, the capital of France. One has to remember that these métiers are extremely fragile things; the memory of their skills and the transmission to a new generation is difficult to carry out. That’s why I am so honored that Chanel confided in me this project to make sure that these miraculous métiers will continue to exist,” said Ricciotti in an impassioned speech.
Asked by FashionNetwork.com why Chanel had chosen Ricciotti, Pavlovsky replied: “Because his was the craziest idea. Who else wanted to drape our building in fabric! More seriously, his conception of the space, his use of light and his sense of how the building had to adapt to each métier made Rudy a great choice.”
Back at the end of the last century, Chanel began appreciating the need to protect these unique skills, and created the Paraffection company in 1997 to house all its Métiers d’Art brands.
Though in a very real sense, Chanel’s links to these marques date back to Coco Chanel herself. As early as 1954 she called on gold specialist Goossens to develop fantasy jewelry for Chanel; while three years later boot maker Massaro developed the first bi-color slipper – a soulier which went on to become a classic Chanel icon. Mademoiselle Chanel turned to Lemarié in 1960 to develop the first fabric versions of her favorite flower, the camellia, a role it carries out exclusively today.
Chanel has been present in the working-class northeast area of Paris for some years; including in an existing building that housed several of their Métiers d’Art brands, which will eventually move to 19M.
It’s certainly a zone enjoying a slow but steady renaissance. Back in 1982, Hermès began creating a series of offices – including its leather workshops - in the nearby Porte de Pantin, which also hosts a major gallery by Thaddaeus Ropac, France’s single most famous contemporary art dealer.
19M still has a year’s building to completion. Indeed, the structure is so new that photos on Google Maps still show it as a giant construction site.
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