DALLAS, United States — The inspiration for Chanel's Metiers d'Art traveling fashion show this year will come from Dallas, the Texas city where Coco Chanel was once given a warm welcome that included being picked up at the airport in a white Rolls-Royce and being feted at a Western-themed party complete with a catwalk featuring cows.
For more than a decade, designer Karl Lagerfeld has picked a city linked to the house for the theme of the show staged each December to highlight the work of its artisans. On Tuesday evening, it will be the turn for the city that fashion house founder Gabrielle "Coco" Chanel visited in 1957 at the invitation of Stanley Marcus, who led Neiman Marcus, the Dallas-based luxury retailer founded by his family.
"It's going to be over the top and it's going to be spectacular," said Neiman Marcus fashion director Ken Downing. "It's going to be a big fashion moment here in Dallas."
"I'm anticipating that we're going to see a lot of Dallas and certainly a lot of Texas and the American West translated into the collection."
The show that will be held at Dallas' Art Deco exhibition venue Fair Park will begin with the premiere of a film written and directed by Lagerfeld titled, "The Return," that retraces the steps of Coco Chanel as she reopened her Paris couture house in 1954 after shuttering it as Europe entered World War II. Her return wasn't well-received by the French press, but was embraced by the Americans.
Neiman Marcus was among those that lauded her return, with a special appreciation for the suits that her name is now synonymous with.
"They thought it was wonderful and perfect for the modern American customer," said Myra Walker, director of the Texas Fashion Collection, an assemblage of thousands of clothing items housed at the University of North Texas that had its genesis with the Marcus family. "Women look good in it. You can wear it to lunch or you can dress it up for the evening."
During Coco Chanel's September 1957 trip to Dallas — only three years after the return of her fashion house — she was given the Neiman Marcus Award for Distinguished Service in the Field of Fashion. The next month, Neiman Marcus, celebrating its 50th anniversary that year, launched the Fortnight celebrations, which became famous for bringing festivities and offerings inspired by a certain country to the city. With the title "France Comes to Texas," the celebration included turning the downtown store's facade into a re-creation of shops along a Paris street.
"It was very much Mr. Stanley's way of introducing the world to Dallas and Dallas to the world," Downing said.
Marcus, who died in 2002 at 96, would have been thrilled that Lagerfeld was bringing his international show to Dallas, Walker said. "This is the kind of thing he worked toward."
Photos from Coco Chanel's visit include her posing for a picture with a Western-attired Marcus and his wife at the party at a ranch where she took in the cow fashion show in addition to watching square dancers. She was also snapped inspecting a hat on her tour of the store.
"She was very mesmerized by the idea of Texas, so they threw a barbecue for her," Downing said. "The story goes she actually didn't like the taste of the barbecue, and she tossed her plate under the table, which, as the story goes, it went all over Elizabeth Arden's red satin shoes."
In Marcus' speech as he bestowed Coco Chanel with the award, he called her "the great innovator who emancipated the feminine silhouette" and noted she was the first to recognize "that the casualness of the 20th century must be reflected in the clothes women wear."
In another tie to the Lone Star State, when Coco Chanel came to Dallas, she was accompanied by her famous model and muse Suzy Parker, a San Antonio native.
The film will be shown at the same time on Chanel's website at its premiere here. It follows the Lagerfeld's film "Once Upon a Time ..." that explores Coco Chanel's early days in fashion in Deauville on the French Riviera. That film debuted last May in Singapore.
Other cities that have served as inspiration for the Metiers d'Art show include Tokyo, New York, London, Shanghai and Edinburgh, Scotland. The collection, which will be in boutiques in May, highlights the work of the artisans who are part of a Chanel subsidiary company, including a costume jewelry and button maker, a feather and flower maker, a milliner, shoemaker, glovemaker and embroiderers.
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