A Métiers dArt Paris-Hamburg yellow lucite Shipping Container evening bag, Chanel, 2018. 19.5 w x 9 h x 8 d cm. Estimate £6,000-8,000. This lot is offered in Handbags & Accessories on

A collector’s guide to Chanel Métiers d’Art handbags

Witty, eclectic and Chanel to the core, the exquisite Métiers d’Art collection showcases the craftsmanship for which the luxury house is revered. Illustrated with bags offered in Handbags and Accessories on 12 December in London

What is the Métiers d’Art collection?

Métiers d’Art means ‘art professions’, and it is the title given to the annual Chanel collection that pays homage to the small specialist workshops that Chanel began buying in 1984, in order to preserve the expertise and craftsmanship associated with French luxury. Today these ateliers have become essential to the everyday running of the fashion house, providing Chanel with everything from lace to embroidered buttons. ‘Without them,’ creative director Karl Lagerfeld has said, ‘I don’t know how we could do it.’

The ateliers — from Lemarié to Lesage

The specialist workshops include the milliner Maison Michel, the costume jeweller Desrues, the feather-worker and flower-maker Lemarié and most importantly, Chanel’s most renowned atelier, the embroidery house Lesage — famous in the past for creating avant-garde garments for Balenciaga, Balmain, Dior and Givenchy. All these ateliers help craft Chanel’s iconic handbags.

Ornamentation, craftsmanship and demi-couture

Métiers d’Art creations are considered demi-couture, right between ready-to-wear and haute couture; although the designs are not bespoke, their ornamentation and craftsmanship rely on couture techniques. The Métiers d'Art runway shows take place each year outside the traditional fashion schedule.

Métiers d’Art runway shows in Mumbai, Edinburgh, Dallas and Hamburg

Each year Chanel turns to a different city to pay tribute to the ateliers. Past locations have included Mumbai, Edinburgh and Dallas. In 2017, Karl Lagerfeld chose Hamburg, the city of his birth, using the architecture and its seafaring history to create a beautifully crafted and playful collection that featured evening bags — made from lucite — which resembled shipping containers.

A Métiers D’Art Paris-Hamburg forest green lucite Shipping Container evening bag, Chanel, 2018. 19.5 w x 9 h x 8 d cm. Estimate £6,000-8,000. This lot is offered in Handbags & Accessories on 12 December 2018 at Christie’s in London

A Métiers D’Art Paris-Hamburg forest green lucite Shipping Container evening bag, Chanel, 2018. 19.5 w x 9 h x 8 d cm. Estimate: £6,000-8,000. This lot is offered in Handbags & Accessories on 12 December 2018 at Christie’s in London

Decadence, experimentation, and attention to detail

In 2014 the Paris-Salzburg show was staged at an 18th-century schloss in Austria. The beautiful flap bag pictured below reflects the rococo theme of the collection. The intricate embroidery is created by Lesage, and the attention to detail is undeniable.

A Métier dArts Paris-Salzburg Lesage embroidery & velvet medium double flap 2.55 with Ruthénium Hardware, Chanel, 2016. 25 w x 15 h x 8 d cm. Estimate £2,000-3,000. This lot is offered in Handbags & Accessories on 12 December 2018 at Christie’s in London

A Métier d'Arts Paris-Salzburg Lesage embroidery & velvet medium double flap 2.55 with Ruthénium Hardware, Chanel, 2016. 25 w x 15 h x 8 d cm. Estimate: £2,000-3,000. This lot is offered in Handbags & Accessories on 12 December 2018 at Christie’s in London

The black lucite Matryoshka evening bag with gold hardware pictured below was featured in the opulent Paris-Shanghai runway show in 2010 — a show dedicated to decadence. 

It embodies Chanel’s assured combination of tradition and experimentation — something that has consistently kept the fashion house ahead of the curve.