We’ve been waiting for this momentous event for nearly a year. This Tuesday, December 10, Dallas played host to Chanel Creative Director Karl Lagerfeld and his grand Métiers d’Art show at Fair Park. Freak ice storm aside, roughly nine hundred guests from across the globe filed into the home of our annual State Fair for the occasion, and I was among them. I was eager, to say the least, to witness first-hand what would happen when Chanel rode into town. Everything is bigger in Texas, right?
To recap our past ten months of coverage, it was surprising, at first, when Lagerfeld announced Dallas as the location for his pre-fall collection show. With a closer look, this decision actually made a lot of sense. When Coco Chanel staged her post-WWII comeback in 1953, it was solely the American press who sang her praises. More specifically, Dallas-based Neiman Marcus greatly helped to keep her reputation from going south (so to speak). It would seem that Mademoiselle never forgot that kindness.
And so, enter the Paris-Dallas Métiers d’Art. On the big night, I donned my favorite DVF, and accented with vintage Chanel earrings courtesy of Clothes Circuit. Along with my hundreds of fellow Chanel-clad guests, we were first ushered into the Park’s Centennial Hall, which had been transformed into an indoor drive-in movie theater. Rows of vintage cars and trucks were parked before three giant movie screens. Car-hops bounced from window to window passing out Milk Duds and popcorn. In the air, a peculiar aromatic mix of hot dogs and Chanel No. 5 proved strangely alluring. While sipping spiked cherry limeade, we ogled celebrities – Dakota Fanning, Anna Wintour, Kristen Stewart – as they arrived. Oh, and there was ice cream, too. Who said fashion folks don’t eat?
After the snack and celeb opening act, Lagerfeld premiered his short film entitled The Return, based on the previously mentioned comeback. Starring Geraldine Chaplin as a slightly beaten-down Coco Chanel, the film showed how the French press bashed her collection with quips like, “You can hardly call that couture, it’s so boring,” and “I don’t think her name will last forever.” On the other hand, her friends to the west embraced her, and helped return the House of Chanel to glory.
Directly following the film (which was a bit lacking a bit in the excitement department), guests headed outdoors again, each greeted with a delicious, warm hot toddy to sip on the short walk to the second venue. Excitement for the stage setting reveal and upcoming runway show was palpable. Walking into the space, however, that excitement faltered a bit. Turns out, team Chanel had built us a barn. Whoopee.
I knew in that moment that this wasn’t going to be the portrayal of Dallas high society with its breathtaking oil money mansions and grand balls for which I had secretly hoped. This was Little House On The Prairie meets Cowboys and Indians. I thought the theme to be a little too cliché, even for Karl, who also cited Houston socialite Lynn Wyatt as his muse for this collection. Go figure.
Nevertheless, the fashions showcased at Métiers d’Art are always stereotypical (as with last year’s plaid-splashed Scottish Highlands theme), and the clothes held tight to Chanel standards. The exaggerated western wear was actually absolutely beautiful. There was plenty of denim, of course, and Lone Star sequined dresses, plus tiny jewel-encrusted revolvers, pearls and fringe for days, and cowboy boots covered in fur. Models sported metallic war paint-like makeup and loose ponytails, with hair bows and feathers tucked in their locks.
After the rodeo of a show, guests gathered in a room made up as a western saloon for the official after party. Even more down-home style food was served, including steak and Frito pie (right in the bag). Alcohol flowed freely, which probably helped boost the courage of those brave party-goers who gave the mechanical bull a whirl. The Fair Park dancers also beckoned guests for short group line dance lessons. If you’ve never seen a Parisian two-step for the first time, you’ve yet to live. As British band Hot Chip performed for the energetic crowd, the party lasted well into the night.
The following day, Wednesday, December 11, in what is being called a full-circle event, Anna Wintour presented Lagerfeld with a Neiman Marcus Award for Distinguished Service in the Field of Fashion at the retailer’s downtown Dallas flagship store. I look back on my Métiers d’Art experience, and I must agree with the decision. I may not have portrayed Texas the way Lagerfeld chose to do so, but I live here. I shudder to think how I would host a similar show in a place I know nothing about.
Our city was shown gratitude, and given a chance to shine, and I think that was the ultimate goal. This was Dallas’ opportunity to finally prove that we can play in the big leagues as a fashion capital, to charm fashion industry leaders with our hospitality and appreciation. I can only hope we succeeded, because this moment will never come again. John Galantic, U.S. President and Chief Operating Officer of Chanel explained it best, “Tonight is more than a collection, it’s about the strength of the content.” Lagerfeld stuck to his guns and delivered. Hats off.
Runway photos via Style.com. Additional images courtesy of Chanel.