How Chanel’s Stylish Creations Preserve Ancient Crafts and the Artisans Who Practice Them

From a 19th-century Parisian feather house to a weaver in a small town near the Pyrenees, the fashion giant is preserving artisanship of all luxury stripes.

By Jill Newman 17/11/2019

Today, she’s warping numerous strands for a tweed fabric—and not just any tweed: This one is woven with a thread of minuscule sequins that reflect the light, creating a slightly effervescent textile. This and Chanels other famous tweeds—which the brand uses for its signature jackets, handbags and elegant Peter Marino–designed furnishings—are made here.

An artisan weaves golden tweed fabrics for the pre-fall Métiers d’Art collection presented at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

An artisan weaves golden tweed fabrics for the pre-fall Métiers d’Art collection presented at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Photography by Emmanuel Fradin

The workshop, called ACT3, was established 23 years ago by weaving expert Maria Messner, a native of Salzburg, Austria, who moved to Pau for its reputation as a textile hub. From the start, she had no intention of making traditional cloth; instead, she experimented with new materials and unconventional combinations of wool, tulle, leather and more. She peddled her creative cloths to the Parisian fashion houses, including ChanelDior and Christian Lacroix. Hers was a laborious job—one that required skill, passion and dedication—and though her business was thriving, she worried about how she and her 23 employees would sustain it. So, four years ago, she asked her biggest client, Chanel, to invest.

Today, ACT3 is one of 27 artisan workshops that Chanel has systematically acquired or partly funded to ensure that the sources for its specialty products thrive—and ultimately save age-old artisan crafts from potential extinction. When we think of the French global powerhouse, we tend to imagine grand-scale production, but the family-owned business, which brought in more than $11 billion in sales last year, has a strategy that’s rooted in small-scale artisan manufacturing. It started investing in its core artisan suppliers in 1985, and in 1997 it established its Paraffection subsidiary (the name translates to “for the love of”) to perpetuate and preserve these crafts. In most cases, Chanel acquired these suppliers, yet the brand opted not to interfere with their production or management—even allowing them to create for other fashion houses. The aim was to financially support the small artisan workshops that otherwise might not have had the resources to survive.

Weaving expert Maria Messner.

Weaving expert Maria Messner. Photography by Emmanuel Fradin

Could such high-fashion altruism be the future of luxury goods? Indeed, if big brands want to build an audience among a new, often younger set of consumers—who see fashion’s potential to be more than a mere status symbol— they must support the heritage and artisanship behind their products. It’s not enough to look good anymore—our purchases need to do good, too.

Chanel’s president of fashion, Bruno Pavlovsky, who also oversees the Paraffection division, said recently, “I believe more and more that, in the future, this emotional value will be the success of the luxury market. If you lose the emotion, you will lose the value, and that’s something we believe very strongly in at Chanel. We need to keep that.”

The pre-fall Métiers d’Art collection presented at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

The pre-fall Métiers d’Art collection presented at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Photo: O. Saillant

Pavlovsky isn’t alone. The movement to support the many rungs of craftsmanship is happening beyond Chanel: Luxury-goods leaders LVMH and Kering are also investing in artisans and establishing schools to train new generations in age-old crafts. LVMH even opted to shine a spotlight on its artisans with Les Journées Particulières, a biennial event that opens to the public the private doors of dozens of its workshops across Europe.

Of course, there’s profit to be made with these magnanimous endeavours, but this kind of long-term commitment doesn’t come cheap. For instance, Chanel’s Métiers d’Art collection, which the late Karl Lagerfeld launched in 2002, has become one of the brand’s most celebrated—and costly—shows of craftsmanship, with elaborate fashion presentations taking place in a new destination each year. (Last December’s Egyptian-themed collection, unveiled in the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Temple of Dendur, was a high point for the series.) Next year, in Parisian suburb Aubervilliers, Chanel will open a sprawling 25,550-square-metre campus, designed by the French architect Rudy Ricciotti, to bring together the different workshops on a single site, while preserving their individual identities as independent entities. Such measures have bolstered many artisans and, in some cases, saved entire crafts, as was the case with the 19th-century Parisian feather house Lemarié—perhaps the only remaining plumassier—which Chanel acquired in 1996.

Gold beetles for jewelry and accessories are made from wax molds.

Gold beetles for jewellery and accessories are made from wax moulds. Photography by Emmanuel Fradin

Lagerfeld always recognized the need for ateliers to innovate—regardless of cost—and that recognition continues today. “With Chanel, there is no limit to what you can make,” says Messner. “Some fashion houses come to me and ask about price. Not Chanel. Creativity is the most important thing for them.” That’s why it takes on average two months to make a single Chanel tweed. (That’s also why the pieces come with such high price tags.)

Patrick Goossens also understands the drive to innovate. His late father, French jeweller Robert Goossens, collaborated with Coco Chanel for decades. “The worries of the business side of things are gone now,” says Goossens, who sold the family business to Chanel in 2005 and now serves as its artistic director. “Now I can focus on creation.”

Goossens's workshop shapes the beetle for the pre-fall Egyptian-themed collection.

Goossens’s workshop shapes the beetle for the pre-fall Egyptian-themed collection. Photography by Emmanuel Fradin

Trained as a classical jeweller in Paris, Goossens joined his father’s atelier at 19. Over the years he worked to execute Lagerfeld’s—and now Chanel creative director Virginie Viard’s—vision through exquisite jewellery and objects. For last year’s Egyptian-themed collection, Lagerfeld and Viard wanted gold beetles for jewellery and accessories, so Goossens replicated the beetles his father had made for Chanel 50 years ago, using the original models from his extensive archives. The artisans in Lesage’s workshop make bronze-and gold-plated pieces the same way fine jewellery is made by hand: from a wax mould. It’s a process that could easily be automated—but that’s not luxury.

In Montmartre, the embroidery house Maison Lesage has a treasure trove of 75,000 samples dating back more than a century, but when Chanel acquired the atelier in 2002, Lagerfeld was interested only in looking to the future. “Most designers look in the archives for ideas, [but] not Karl; he wanted something totally new every time,” says Hubert Barrère, Lesage’s artistic director. When Barrère entered the embroidery trade in 1989, his goal was to impart a new sense of creativity—a mission shared by Lagerfeld. “I mix baroque and modernity,” Barrère says. His is a skilful job that has required almost a decade of training to master. An embroidered couture dress, for instance, may require up to 1000 hours of handiwork to complete. Chanel accounts for roughly 70 per cent of Barrère’s business, and he says the collaboration is especially fruitful due to the fashion house’s desire to infuse craft with a modern spirit. “I usually have a conversation with Virginie about the theme,” he says, “and I brainstorm with my team and we present concepts to execute the vision.”

The finished product.

The finished cuff. Photo: O. Saillant

The Paraffection subsidiary is rife with similar stories. The House of Desrues—the first métier d’art acquired by Chanel, in 1985—produces buttons, jewellery, belt buckles and handbag clasps for the label. Chanel’s coveted handbags are made at the Ateliers de Verneuil-en-Halatte, where a heritage is preserved that is both cultural and technical. Apprentices work for four to five years before they can seamlessly carry out the 180 techniques required to bring a single bag to life. And in the Scottish town of Hawick, 200 craftspeople at Barrie—founded by Walter Barrie and Robert Kersel in 1903—manufacture the brand’s cashmere.

These ateliers are ushering Chanel into its next era: a period where human creativity and handwork and emotion are more valuable than a $15,000 handbag or $30,000 gown.



Subscribe to the Newsletter

Stay Connected

You may also like.

First Drive: The Porsche 911 S/T Is a Feral Beast That Handles the Road Like an Olympic Bobsledder

The commemorative model borrows underpinnings from the GT3 RS and includes a 518 hp engine.

By Basem Wasef 23/10/2023

The soul of any sports car comes down to the alchemy of its tuning—how the engine, suspension, and chassis blend into a chorus of sensations. The secret sauce of the new Porsche 911 S/T, developed as a tribute to the 60th anniversary of the brand’s flagship model, is more potent than most; in fact, it makes a serious case for being the most driver-focused 911 of all time.

Sharing the S/T designation with the homologation special from the 1960s, the (mostly) innocuously styled commemorative model borrows underpinnings from the more visually extroverted GT3 RS. Yet what the S/T, starting at $290,000, lacks in fender cutouts and massive spoilers it makes up for in directness: a flat-six power plant that revs to 9,000 rpm, a motorsport-derived double-wishbone suspension, and a manual gearbox. It’s a delightfully feral combination.

Rossen Gargolov

Whereas the automatic-transmission GT3 RS is ruthlessly configured for maximum downforce and minimum lap times, the S/T is dialed in for the road—particularly the Southern Italian ones on which we’re testing the car, which happen to be the very same used by product manager Uwe Braun, Andreas Preuninger, head of Porsche’s GT line, and racing legend Walter Röhrl to finalize its calibration. The car reacts to throttle pressure with eerie deftness, spinning its 518 hp engine with thrilling immediacy, thanks to shorter gear ratios.

The steering response is similarly transparent, as direct as an unfiltered Marlboro, and the body follows with the agility of an Olympic bobsledder. Some of that purity of feeling is the result of addition through subtraction: Power-sapping elements including a hydraulic clutch and rear-axle steering were ditched, which also enabled the battery to be downsized for even more weight savings. The final result, with its carbon-fiber body panels, thinner glass, magnesium wheels, and reduced sound deadening, is the lightest 992-series variant on record, with roughly the same mass as the esteemed 911 R from 2016.

Driver engagement is further bolstered by the astounding crispness of the short-throw gearbox. The S/T fits hand in glove with narrow twisties and epic sweepers, or really any stretch that rewards mechanical grip and the ability to juke through hairpin corners. The cabin experience is slightly less raucous than the 911 R, but more raw than the wingless 911 GT3 Touring, with an intrusive clatter at idle due to the single-mass flywheel and featherlight clutch. Porsche cognoscenti will no doubt view the disturbance in the same way that hardcore Ducatisti revere the tambourine-like rattle of a traditional dry clutch: as an analog badge of honor.

The main bragging right, though, may just be owning one. In a nod to the year the 911 debuted, only 1,963 examples of the S/T will be built. Considering the seven-year-old 911 R started life at$295,000 and has since fetched upwards of $790,000, this new lightweight could bring proportionately heavy returns—if you can be pried from behind the wheel long enough to sell it, that is.

Images by Rossen Gargolov

Buy the Magazine

Subscribe today

Stay Connected

Gentlemanly Restraint 

Art and science collide in the the newly released BR03A watch collection by Bell & Ross.

By Belinda Aucott 02/11/2023

In keeping with the brand’s design salute to aviation and military equipment, the pared-back face of the Bell & Ross BR03 Automatic takes its cue from the instrumentation in cockpits. It’s unabashedly minimal and confidently masculine style is set to make it a future classic.

Faithful to the codes that underpin the brand’s identity, the new utilitarian offerings sit within a smaller 41-mm case (a slight departure from the original at 42 mm Diver, Chrono or GMT.) and has a reduced lug width and slimmer hands. The changes extend to the watch movement, which has been updated with a BR-CAL.302 calibre. The watch is waterproof to 300 metres and offers a power reserve of 54 hours.

While the new collection offers an elegant sufficiency of colourways, from a stealthy black to more decorative bronze face with a tan strap, each is a faithful rendition of the stylish “rounded square, four-screw” motif that is Bell & Ross’s calling card.



For extra slickness, the all-black Phantom and Nightlum models have a stealthy, secret-agent appeal, offering up a new take on masculine restraint.

Yet even the more decorative styles, like the black face with contrasting army-green band, feel eminently versatile and easy to wear. The 60’s simplicity and legibility of the face is what makes it so distinctive and functional.

For example, the BR 03-92 Nightlum, with its black matte case and dial, and bright green indices and hands, offers a great contrast during the day and emits useful luminosity at night.

A watch that begs to be read, the the BR03-A stands up to scrutiny, and looks just as good next to a crisp, white cuff as it does at the end of a matte, black wetsuit.

That’s a claim not many watch collections can make. 

Explore the collection.

Buy the Magazine

Subscribe today

Stay Connected

Timeless Glamour & Music Aboard The Venice Simplon-Orient Express

Lose yourself in a luxury journey, aboard an Art Deco train from Paris

By Belinda Aucott 03/11/2023

Watching the unseen corners of Europe unfold gently outside your train, window can be thirsty work, right? That’s why Belmond Hotels is once again staging a culinary train journey from Paris to Venice, aboard the glittering Art Deco carriages of the Venice Simplon-Orient Express.

To celebrate diversity and inclusion in the LBTQ+ community, another unforgettable train ride is slated for 2 November.

On the journey, ample servings of decadent cuisine will be served and live entertainment will play looooong into the night. Trans-DJ Honey Dijon and Dresden’s Purple Disco Machine are both part of the disco-house line-up.

Passengers are encouraged to dress in black-tie or cocktail attire, before they head to the bar and dining carriages to enjoy their night, where they are promised ‘unapologetic extravagance’,.

Negronis, martinis, spritzes and sours will all be on offer as the sunlight fades.

So-hot-right-now French chef Jean Imbert is also in the kitchen rattling the pans for guests.

Imber puts a garden-green-goodness twist on Gallic traditions. He regularly cooks for the who’s-who. Imbert recently co-created a food concept for Dior in Paris, worked with Pharrell Williams to present a dinner in Miami, and he’s even been invited to Cheval Blanc St-Barth to cater luxe LVMH-owned property.

The young chef is vowing to create no less than ‘culinary perfection’ in motion with his own passion for fresh seasonal produce. There’ll be plenty of Beluga caviar, seared scallops, and lobster vol-au-vents.

“I want to create beautiful moments which complement the train, which is the true star,” says Imbert of his hands-on approach to delectable pastries and twists on elegant Euro classics.

“Its unique legacy is something we take pride in respecting, while evolving a new sense of style and purpose that will captivate a new generation.”

Check the timetable for the itinerary of lush inclusions here.

Buy the Magazine

Subscribe today

Stay Connected

From Electric Surfboards to Biodegradable Golf Balls: 8 Eco-Conscious Yacht Toys for Green and Clean Fun

Just add water and forget the eco-guilt.

By Gemma Harris 18/10/2023

Without toys, yachts would be kind of sedentary. There’s nothing wrong with an alfresco meal, sunsets on the flybridge and daily massages. But toys add zest to life on board, while creating a deeper connection with the water. These days, there are a growing number of options for eco-friendly gadgets and equipment that deliver a greener way to play. These eight toys range from do-it-yourself-propulsion (waterborne fitness bikes) to electric foiling boards, from kayaks made of 100 percent recycled plastics to non-toxic, biodegradable golf balls with fish food inside. Your on-water adrenaline rushes don’t always have to be about noise and gas fumes. They can be fun, silent, and eco-conscious.

A game of golf isn’t just for land. Guests can play their best handicap from the deck with Albus Golf’s eco-friendly golf balls. The ecological and biodegradable golf balls are 100 percent safe for marine flora and fauna, and manufactured with non-contaminating materials. The balls will biodegrade within 48 hours after hitting the ocean and release the fish food contained in their core. For a complete golfing experience, add a floating FunAir green. From $3100 (FunAir Yacht Golf) and $315 a box (golf balls).

Fliteboard Series 2.0

The future of surf is electric, and Fliteboard offers an emissions-free and environmentally friendly electric hydrofoil. Flying over the water has never been as efficient and low impact, using new technologies with less than 750 watts of electric power. This second series boasts various performance factors for all riding styles. It also features an increased trigger range from 20 to 40 degrees for more precision and control. Fliteboard designed this series for every possible foiling ability, from newbies to wave-carvers. From $22,000.

Manta 5 Hydrofoiler XE-1

Hailing from New Zealand and using America’s Cup technology, Manta 5 offers the first hydrofoil bike. The Hydrofoiler XE-1 replicates the cycling experience on the water. Powered by fitness-level pedaling and assisted by the onboard battery, top speeds can reach up to 19 km per hour. The two hydrofoils are carbon fibre, and the frame is aircraft-grade aluminium. The onboard Garmin computer will relay all the stats. The effortless gliding sensation will accompany you through a workout, exploration or just circling the boat. From $950.

Mo-Jet’s Jet Board

Imagine five toys in one: The Mo Jet delivers just that. From jet surfing, bodyboarding, and e-foiling to scooter diving. This versatile, German-built toy is perfect for those who cannot decide. The Mo-jet uses a cool modular system allowing you to switch between activities. Whether you want to stand, be dragged around or dive, you can have it all. It even has a life-saving module and a 2.8m rescue electric surfboard. Made from environmentally friendly and recyclable polyethene, it also ticks the eco-conscious boxes. Complete with an 11kW electric water jet, it charges in 75 mins, offering up to 30 mins of fun. Adrenaline junkies will also not be disappointed, since speed surges from 0 to 27 knots in 3 seconds. From $18,000.

Silent Yachts Tender ST400

Driven by innovation and solar energy, Silent Yachts recently launched its first electric tender, the ST400. The 13-footer has clean-cut lines and is built with either an electric jet drive or a conventional electric outboard engine. The ST400 reaches speeds above 20 knots. From $110,000.

Osiris Outdoor ‘Reprisal’ Kayak

Kayaks are ideal for preserving and protecting nature, but they’re usually manufactured with materials that will last decades longer than we will and therefore not too eco-friendly. Founded by US outdoor enthusiasts, Osiris Outdoor has created a new type of personal boat. “The Reprisal” kayak is manufactured in the US entirely from recycled plastics (around 27 kgs) that are purchased from recycling facilities. The sustainable manufacturing process isn’t its only selling point; the lightweight Reprisals have spacious storage compartments, rod holders and a watertight hatch for gadgets. Complete with a matte-black finish for a stylish look. From $1100.

The Fanatic Ray Eco SUP Paddleboard

Declared as the most sustainable SUP, the Ray Eco is the brainchild of the Zero Emissions Project and BoardLab, supported by Fanatic. Glass and carbon fibre have been replaced with sustainable Kiri tree wood. And you can forget toxic varnishes and resins; organic linseed oil has been used to seal the board and maintain its durability. This fast, light, and stable board is truly one of a kind, not available off the rack. This craftsman’s love for detail and preservation is another first-class quality of the board. From $10,000

Northern Light Composite X Clean Sailors EcoOptimist

One of the most popular, single-handed dinghies in sailing’s history, the tiny Optimist has undergone a sustainable revival. Northern Light Composites and not-for-profit Clean Sailors have teamed up to launch the first sustainable and recyclable Optimist. Using natural fibres and eco-sustainable resins, The EcoOptimist supports a new circular economy in yachting. OneSail also produces the sail with a low-carbon-footprint manufacturing process. From $6000.

Buy the Magazine

Subscribe today

Stay Connected

The 50 Best Cocktail Bars in the World, According to a New Ranking

The World’s 50 Best organisation gave the Spanish bar Sips top honours during an awards ceremony in Singapore.

By Tori Latham 18/10/2023

If you’re looking for the best bar in the world, you better head to Barcelona.
Sips, from the industry luminaries Simone Caporale and Marc Álvarez, was named the No. 1 bar on the planet in the latest World’s 50 Best Bars ranking. The organisation held its annual awards ceremony on Tuesday in Singapore, the first time it hosted the gathering in Asia. Sips, which only opened two years ago, moved up to the top spot from No. 3 last year.
“Sips was destined for greatness even before it rocketed into the list at No. 37 just a few short months after opening in 2021,” William Drew, the director of content for 50 Best, said in a statement.
“The bar seamlessly translates contemporary innovation and technical precision into a playful cocktail programme, accompanied by the warmest hospitality, making it a worthy winner of The World’s Best Bar 2023 title.”
Coming in second was North America’s best bar: New York City’s Double Chicken Please. The top five was rounded out by Mexico City’s Handshake Speakeasy, Barcelona’s Paradiso (last year’s No. 1), and London’s Connaught Bar. The highest new entry was Seoul’s Zest at No. 18, while the highest climber was Oslo’s Himkok, which moved up to No. 10 from No. 43 last year.
Barcelona may be home to two of the top five bars, but London has cemented its status as the cocktail capital of the world: The English city had five bars make the list, more than any other town represented. Along with Connaught Bar in the top five, Tayēr + Elementary came in at No. 8, and Satan’s Whiskers (No. 28), A Bar With Shapes for a Name (No. 35), and Scarfes Bar (No. 41) all made the grade too.
The United States similarly had a good showing this year. New York City, in particular, is home to a number of the best bars: Overstory (No. 17) and Katana Kitten (No. 27) joined Double Chicken Please on the list.
Elsewhere, Miami’s Café La Trova hit No. 24 and New Orleans’s Jewel of the South snuck in at No. 49, bringing the Big Easy back to the ranking for the first time since 2014.
To celebrate their accomplishments, all of this year’s winners deserve a drink—made by somebody else at least just this once.
Check out the full list of the 50 best bars in the world below.
1. Sips, Barcelona
2. Double Chicken Please, New York
3. Handshake Speakeasy, Mexico City
4. Paradiso, Barcelona
5. Connaught Bar, London
6. Little Red Door, Paris
7. Licorería Limantour, Mexico City
8. Tayēr + Elementary, London
9. Alquímico, Cartagena
10. Himkok, Oslo
11. Tres Monos, Buenos Aires
12. Line, Athens
13. BKK Social Club, Bangkok
14. Jigger & Pony, Singapore
15. Maybe Sammy, Sydney
16. Salmon Guru, Madrid
17. Overstory, New York
18. Zest, Seoul
19. Mahaniyom Cocktail Bar, Bangkok
20. Coa, Hong Kong
21. Drink Kong, Rome
22. Hanky Panky, Mexico City
23. Caretaker’s Cottage, Melbourne
24. Café La Trova, Miami
25. Baba au Rum, Athens
26. CoChinChina, Buenos Aires
27. Katana Kitten, New York
28. Satan’s Whiskers, London
29. Wax On, Berlin
30. Florería Atlántico, Buenos Aires
31. Röda Huset, Stockholm
32. Sago House, Singapore
33. Freni e Frizioni, Rome
34. Argo, Hong Kong
35. A Bar With Shapes for a Name, London
36. The SG Club, Tokyo
37. Bar Benfiddich, Tokyo
38. The Cambridge Public House, Paris
39. Panda & Sons, Edinburgh
40. Mimi Kakushi, Dubai
41. Scarfes Bar, London
42. 1930, Milan
43. Carnaval, Lima
44. L’Antiquario, Naples
45. Baltra Bar, Mexico City
46. Locale Firenze, Florence
47. The Clumsies, Athens
48. Atlas, Singapore
49. Jewel of the South, New Orleans
50. Galaxy Bar, Dubai

Buy the Magazine

Subscribe today

Stay Connected