Chanel showed its Ancient Egypt-inspired Metiers d’Art collection in New York at the beginning of December. But the month prior, I was afforded exclusive access to the French house’s footwear atelier, Massaro, to see the making of the gilded shoes and boots.
Managing director Jean-Etienne Prach gave me the grand tour. He explained that the studio generally receives drawings for the collection from Chanel creative director Karl Lagerfeld and the house’s shoe designer Laurence Dacade about a month in advance.
“The first thing we start doing when we receive a drawing is building the last and sculpting the shape for the heel,” he said. “Then we draw the shoes onto the last from which we deduct the pattern for the upper.”
The leather is soaked in water and wrapped around the last. Pieces are melded together to form the upper. The toe needs to be strongest, while the sides are more delicate — hence the need for different thicknesses of hide. For this reason, one artisan was thinning down pieces of leather with a scalpel against a thick piece of glass clasped to his chest. “You need big muscles for this job,” laughed Prach.
Another was busy cutting strips of leather for the straps of those gold sandals, “la sandal Egyptian,” as they were annotated on a sketch from HQ. The floor was strewn with strips of gold leather like foils exploded from a giant glitter bomb. They were meticulously lined with cotton to reinforce the leather.
Once the soles have been hand-soldered into place, the final step is attaching the heels. Many of those adorning those showstopping gold boots came inlaid with semiprecious stones or enamel work featuring tiny blue scarab beetles bearing intertwined double Cs.
While the structure is made by Massaro, the embellishments were created by two other Chanel-owned Metiers d’Art ateliers, Goossens the jeweler and button-maker Desrues. They worked on metal sheaths applied over the Massaro-made structure.
In total, Massaro developed seven or eight shoe models for this show. “We don’t know what [will make the final cut] until the last minute, so we just have guesses,” Prach revealed.
Click through for more behind-the-scenes images from the Massaro atelier.
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