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It is a dark, rain-lashed December evening and Old Trafford is packed with excited fans awaiting United’s kick-off against Chelsea. Hyped by the drama of a missed penalty, breathless end-to-end running and a home win unfolding under the floodlights, 74,000 people roar and stamp their feet.

But take a closer look and you will notice that a section of the upper part of the Sir Alex Ferguson Stand looks a little different tonight. While the rest of the stadium is packed with people wearing North Face puffer coats and Nikes, four rows here glimmer with the discreet sheen of bouclé tweed coats, accessorised with cashmere scarves and Tabi boots. Per square metre, there are more quilted leather 2.55 handbags here than you would count on a Paris Fashion Week lunchtime at Café Ruc brasserie near the Palais-Royal. When United captain Bruno Fernandes has his penalty saved by Chelsea goalkeeper Robert Sanchez, the away supporters exhale a delicate “Oooof!” while, all around them, frustrated Mancs let rip some choice swear words. Later on, when Scott McTominay hits his second goal, the winner, Gallic cries of “Allez!” blend with the gruff refrain of “GET IN”.

Lilou wears CHANEL
Tia wears CHANEL
Alisha wears CHANEL

Chanel has come to Manchester. This year’s Métiers d’art show – usually staged in the most elegant of chateaux, the prettiest of castles, the ritziest of hotels – is taking place on the streets of a proudly gritty, football-mad northern city (Manchester City, the champions of England and Europe, are playing away tonight). Creative director Virginie Viard has brought her own home team from Paris, a flock of Chanel’s chosen family of creatives, stylists and editors, and tonight, on the eve of the catwalk show, the Paris contingent, as well as Chanel guests from all over the world, have joined the Brits in being treated to a classic Manc night out: the footy. Before the game, the hospitality lounge commandeered by Chanel is packed with fashionistas getting into the spirit of things. Dinner is pan-fried sea bass, but tonight it comes with a side of fat chips and a pint of lager in a plastic cup.

When Chanel announced that it was holding this year’s Métiers d’art show in Manchester, there were more than a few eyebrows raised. Surely the unwritten rule of destination fashion shows is that they are designed as social media clickbait, a fantasy weekend somewhere exclusive, exotic, sun-kissed and Instagrammable, all the better to enhance the glamour and status of the brand, which is, after all, splashing vast amounts of cash on a one-night-only show. Manchester – and in December, when it is dark by teatime and rainy all day long – was not an obvious choice.

Tia wears CHANEL
Camille wears CHANEL
Tinglei wears CHANEL

But here’s the thing. Chanel, in its elegantly understated way, is one step ahead. The fancy-pants fashion show is no longer a novelty. The way to get the world’s attention with a destination show – to demonstrate that your brand is innovating rather than resting on its laurels, speaking to a younger audience who are dismissive of the old-fashioned and hungry for the daring and new – is to dare to be different. Chanel has stepped out of its Rue Cambon comfort zone and is ready to stamp its double C on the home of Coronation Street. Fast forward 24 hours to the show itself. It is still raining. The downpour has not relented for a moment since Chanel arrived in town, which is charmingly on- brand for the city but less than ideal for yours truly, since for some idiotic reason I have packed for this trip with a sleeveless coat as my only outerwear option. Wisely, the first thing Chanel did when they scouted two outdoor blocks in the city’s Northern Quarter, in the centre of town, as a show location was to build a gleaming perspex canopy spanning the rooftops, supported by elegant metal struts. As a result, Thomas Street is the one dry spot in the city.

The show is a celebration of the spirit of Manchester – its energy, music, tribalism, humour and self-confidence – and so, instead of being given a couture makeover, Thomas Street is very much playing itself. Faded neon signs for tattoo parlours and pawnbrokers blink and fizzle, and the metal shutters are streaked with graffiti. There are no gilt chairs, floral arrangements or beribboned bags of perfume. Instead, mismatched wooden tables and chairs have been squeezed onto the pavements, leaving the street clear for catwalking. The Bay Horse Tavern is open and the bar is doing a roaring trade serving drinks to early arrivals at the show. Kristen Stewart carries a lager in a pitcher-style pint glass to take her seat next to Charlotte Casiraghi. More of Chanel’s nearest and dearest – Tilda Swinton, Alexa Chung – rub shoulders with Manc royalty, including New Order and various junior Gallaghers. Bruno Pavlovsky, Chanel’s charming president of fashion, and Leena Nair, the brand’s friendly and megawatt-smiled CEO, survey the scene as the crowd gradually settle to watch, with months of planning finally ticking down to lift off.

The music kicks in and the show kicks off. Tweed coat dresses and miniskirt suits come in pick ’n’ mix colours, worn for a night on the tiles with bare legs and low-heeled sandals in which the girls stride the concrete catwalk at a clip. They look glamorous but streetwise and sassy, rather than pampered or precious. If that doesn’t immediately sound like Chanel as you know it, remember that Coco herself was very much a self-made working woman who battled like a streetfighter to escape her impoverished childhood and find success, joy and independence. Not only that, but it was in nearby Cheshire that Coco, during her love affair with the Duke of Westminster, discovered the English tweeds that became the very fabric of Chanel’s story.

Métiers d’art is a love letter to craftsmanship and Viard has used all the firepower of Lesage embroidery and Lemarié flower work to drop in Mancunian references in unexpected form: vinyl records embroidered in jet-black beading onto a cocktail dress, club flyer graphics reworked in intarsia knits. Viard’s taste in music has powered the playlist, which includes songs by grumpy indie legend Mark E. Smith’s band The Fall, local DJ Afrodeutsche, who played the afterparty, and Electronic, the supergroup formed by Smiths figurehead Johnny Marr and New Order/Joy Division’s Bernard Sumner. However, there is a deeper connection, too, in the links between her family’s origins in the French town of Lyon and the history of Manchester. Lyon – like Manchester, but on a smaller scale – has a history of textile manufacturing and a proud footballing heritage; Viard’s grandfather and grand-uncle managed the team there and her grandparents worked in fabric manufacture.

Maike wears CHANEL

Closing the show is hometown heroine Karen Elson, from just up the road in Oldham. Wearing a zesty lime-cordial suit that perfectly sets off her signature red hair, she has the audience in raptures to the strains of Joy Division’s pained classic Love Will Tear Us Apart. It is a sweetly simple sign-off to a day that has been packed solid with a Chanel-curated deep dive into the local culture. We had begun the morning at Aviva Studios, home to Factory International, the city’s new arts and performance space, named after Tony Wilson’s famed record label, where creative director Low Kee Hong led us on a backstage tour of the jaw-dropping venue. It includes a concert hall the height of four double decker buses and a 1,600-seat theatre, where we snuck into a rehearsal for the family-friendly production of Lost and Found. After that – and still in my sleeveless coat, remember, lol – we struck out on foot for a walking tour of the city, a highlight of which included the story of how the local cotton mill workers stood up against the slave trade in the 19th century, before a refreshment stop for Vimto out of a plastic cup. Hey, even on the destination show circuit, it’s not champers all day long, you know.

Speaking of champagne. Let’s talk afterparty. As soon as the show wraps, a fleet of cars speeds south from the city centre to Victoria Baths, probably the grandest public swimming baths ever built in England, where striped brickwork picks out the towers and turrets on a frontage that looks more stately home than leisure centre. The windows glow with stained glass and the vast, emptied, tiled pool is flanked by two storeys of ironwork balconies. Manchester’s cultural grandees are out in force: poet John Cooper Clarke, with his chic French wife, Evie; photographers Kevin Cummins, the city’s ultimate chronicler, and Jamie Hawkesworth; and the legendary Factory graphic designer Peter Saville, who collaborated with Viard on visual identity for the Manchester project. I spot a string of the show’s models relieving a wide-eyed young waiter of the entire contents of his tray of margaritas and snaking off through the crowd in a tight, gossipy conga line to the pool/dance floor, where DJ Afrodeutsche has just begun her set. In a plushly velvet-upholstered lounge, a chic late-night Mancunian dinner is served: Lancashire hotpot and vintage champagne. What more could one want?

Xu wears CHANEL

Rumour begins to rumble through the lounge and everyone begins to jostle towards the stage. Alexa Chung is already there, naturally, and suddenly we see the unmistakable, L.S. Lowry-slender figure of Bobby Gillespie on the mic and Primal Scream have launched into Come Together and then Loaded. Manchester does love a party. And Chanel did the city proud.

From today, you can shop the new Chanel Métiers d’art collection at Harrods in London and Selfridges Manchester, where the house has created a series of exclusive window installations that resonate with the vibrant pop cultural energy of the range. Erupting with vivid detail, each display is staged as a domestic interior with a door in the background and a velvet swathed interior theme in the same bright colours seen at the show. Hung on the walls are Jamie Hawkesworth’s candid portraits of young people in Manchester as well as campaign images lensed by Mikael Jansson and visuals from Chaos SixtyNine’s exclusive Chanel Manchester issue. Throughout the installations there are also optic stripes which reference the iconic Mancunian night club La Hacienda and Peter Saville’s MCR logo which first appeared in the Sofia Coppola directed montage teaser for the show. The installation at Harrods will be revealed on June 1, while the Selfridges Manchester display runs from May 31 to June 23.

Taken from 10 Magazine Australia Issue 23 – DARE TO DREAM – out now!

Aivita wears CHANE
Loli wears CHANEL

Photographer RONNI CAMPANA
Models CAMILLE CHIFFLOT at Lucille Management, XU WEI at Storm Management, MAIKE INGA at The Squad, LOLI BAHIA at Women Management Paris, LILOU HERVE at Elite Paris, TINGLEI LIU at Premier Model Management, AIVITA MUZE at Viva London, TIA BELL and ALISHA BELL

Date DECEMBER 7, 2023