Ah, but I’ve gotten ahead of myself. “Why France?” you may ask. Well, it all started with an e-mail (as most things do nowadays) – a surreal invitation to fly out to Paris and discover the world’s most beautiful fashion house, CHANEL. After reading the e-mail five or six more times to make sure my brain wasn’t playing any tricks on me, scrambling to put together baby’s first passport and packing 150 lbs of clothes, shoes and diapers into two suitcases, we were off to the races (in first-class seats nonetheless).
To get to Paris, it took a grand total of 14 hours of airplanes and airports and 5 hours of broken sleep. When our plane landed at 11am, I remember being in complete awe of the lack of snow, the afternoon sun (which seemed brighter in Paris), and the idea that we were an ocean away in France. It had been so long since Eric and I had entertained any notion of travelling, so to be somewhere other than home felt odd. But, after checking into the Hotel Chateau Voltaire, taking much-needed showers, a 2-hour siesta and scarfing down some room service, we felt refreshed and ready to take on the City of Lights.
The following day was a blur. I woke up and threw on a pair of black CHANEL tights, a black jumpsuit romper embellished with CHANEL’s signature double-C logo in sequins, a pair of white and black lambskin ballerina flats with a dainty ankle chain, and a black and navy tweed blazer from CHANEL’s Fall ’21 collection (all without waking up my baby). After getting my makeup done by CHANEL makeup artist, Myriam, I made my way down the stairs, met Jackie, Renée and Aleesha in the lobby of the hotel and off we galavanted to the Grand Palais Éphémère for CHANEL’s FW’22 RTW show. Now, when I say I’ve been to a few fashion shows in my heyday (am I old enough to say this?), let me first preface that nothing I’ve seen remotely compares to the grandeur of a CHANEL show. CHANEL had engulfed the entire venue in tweed – from the walls, invitations, and seats to the blue tweed runway (a subtle nod to Scotland’s River Tweed which eventually would share its name with the woollen fabric). Then, out came the models accompanied by a spectacularly engineered musical score and dressed in lavish layers, richly-hued tweed jackets and skirts and knee-high wellies that made me desperately wish I was living somewhere rainier. In what seemed like the blink of an eye, the show was over and the audience a sea of cheers as Virginie Viard popped out from behind the tweed gateway to gave a bow of thanks.
Next, I followed Jackie and a small group of influencers (Saray Luis Martin from Spain, Marianne Theodorsen from Norway, Chiara Baratello from Italy, and Fernanda Millan from Mexico) along with Carla and Florence from CHANEL to the 7L Bookshop, which was created by Karl Lagerfeld in 1999 and offers a thoughtfully curated selection of publications on photography, fashion, design, arts, architecture and interior design. Should my luggage have been any less full, I can only imagine that I may have found myself bringing a few books home with me.
For lunch, the group of us made our way into a tiny elevator and found ourselves at Gigi, a charming restaurant above the théâtre des Champs-Elysées. There, we were delighted with an exquisite view of the Eiffel Tower drenched in the afternoon sun and joined by the ever so effortless Amanda Sanchez, CHANEL’s in-house fitting model. Eric and the baby actually met us at lunch briefly for a quick feeding session before we head off to our next stop, which was le19M.
Now, if you haven’t yet had the chance to visit le19M, let me just say that le19M is truly beautiful in both design and purpose. From the outside, it looks like a building that has been delicately wrapped in fabric. But once you enter the le19M and learn the why behind CHANEL’s new Métiers d’art headquarters and the 600 artisans that are supported and connected through it, the symbolism behind the building’s intertwining concrete threads becomes clear as day. This is a space meant to foster creativity, innovation and collaboration between 11 different Maisons d’art. And luckily, we were able to visit two of them.
First up on the tour was Goossens, the goldsmith studio that was created in 1950 by Robert Goossens. Driven by an insatiable curiosity and desire to improve, Monsieur Goossens was quickly recognized by Mademoiselle Chanel after they met and together, they designed cutting-edge gold jewellery and furniture. 70 years later, the Goossens workshop is still hand crafting cutting-edge pieces – from intricate gilded chandeliers with dangling rock crystals to the ornate costume jewellery that helps define CHANEL’s luxury. During our visit, we had the chance to watch Goossens’ artisans handcraft earrings and belts and necklace pendants. In an age where fashion is pumped out of factories at break neck speeds, it’s easy to forget how much work and how many hours goes into creating something with intention.
Next, we paid a visit to Lesage, the embroidery workshop of le19M. Founded in 1858, the Lesage workshop supplied the greatest names in the history of Haute Couture. In 1949, François Lesage took over as head of the Maison and partnered with leading couturiers like CHANEL, eventually presenting tweed fabrics to CHANEL for its collections. During our tour of Lesage, we were invited to participate in an embroidery workshop alongside the vibrant Hubert Barrère (artistic director of Lesage) and embroider sequins and beads onto a section of tweed fabric. Despite my fumbling fingers and a few pokes here and there, the embroidery workshop was one of my most treasured memories from the #DiscoverCHANEL program. Under the helpful tutelage of Lesage’s wonderful artisans and alongside great company, I successfully embroidered a tweed keychain of sorts that I have kept on my CHANEL purse ever since.
Last on our tour of le19M was a visit to la Galerie du 19M, a multidisciplinary space that focuses on the values of artistic craftsmanship and is open to all. Until April 23, 2022, la Galerie du 19M’s first exhibition titled “l’Ouverture du 19M” will be on display, presenting le19M’s resident Métiers d’Art houses and their incredible savoir-faire. So, if you’re visiting Paris anytime soon, you know what to do.
The last day of the discovery program day was kicked off with a group brunch at the Ritz Carlton’s Les Jardins de L’Espadon. Set within an airy garden greenhouse held up by teal green metal arches, the sun was a welcome guest as we munched on perfectly green avocados, pastries, crispy bacon, scrambled eggs and smoked salmon (I ordered too much, I admit). Afterwards, we strolled through the hotel and onto Rue Cambon, where we had the incredible honour of visiting Mademoiselle Chanel’s private apartment.
Mademoiselle Chanel’s apartment was located two-flights up the famed curved mirrored stairway (which she would reportedly view her own collections on). Although she never formally slept at the apartment (she lived across the Place Vendôme at the Ritz Carlton), she used it to work and host the likes of Salvador Dalí, Pablo Picasso and Elizabeth Taylor. So when I say that it was an absolute honour to be able to tour her private residence, know that I’m not sugarcoating my words. Like anything CHANEL, the apartment was impeccably dressed – lavish baubles, gold lions and crystal balls decorated the tables, gilded chandeliers were put up in every room and ornate Chinese screens and wall panels featuring CHANEL’s signature camellia flowers were cleverly placed to remove the need for doors (Mademoiselle Chanel had a famous aversion to doors). Every ornament, book, wall and room held so many stories, and just being in Mademoiselle Chanel’s apartment (and even getting to sit on her suede couch) was such a surreal and absorbing experience.
After our tour, my time with CHANEL and the group of ladies (who I had grown fond of in such a short amount of time) was over. And while it was sad to part ways, I remember feeling overwhelmed with feelings of gratitude to the cosmic universe and, more practically, Jackie and the CHANEL team for: a) accommodating me as a new mother, and b) for the opportunity to meet everyone and learn about CHANEL in a unique and intimate set of experiences.
Looking back, my trip to Paris with CHANEL still feels like a dream. But at least now I have this post to help me remember everything.
If you’ve scrolled down here for the TL;DR, I don’t blame you (this is the longest post I’ve probably ever written in my 11-year history of blogging). All you need to know is that it was Paris, it was CHANEL, and it was an absolute honour.