Macron heralds opening of Chanel’s 19M as a cultural revolution
President Emmanuel Macron celebrated the opening of 19M, Chanel’s new center of couture and fashion skills, carefully praising it as an expression of a cultural revolution in France.
Macron spoke after a two-hour tour of the 19M, located just outside the ring road of Paris in Aubervilliers, an old working-class neighborhood that has historically elected Communist mayors.
Though, still not officially a candidate for re-election in May this year, this felt very like a campaign speech by a Macron, a center-left politician, skilled communicator and elegant orator.
Where many of his predecessors were careful to avoid fashion and luxury as frivolous endeavors, Macron has embraced la mode, organizing two elegant dinners for designers, editors and CEOs inside the Élysée Palace.
At 19M, he very publicly extolled the importance of luxury for the French economy, and the industry’s role in breaking down barriers in France.
“The key word here is commitment. Back in 2018 when France had just won the World Cup, we launched an initiative called Les Enterprises s’engage– or Companies Commit. To announce to people that no matter what neighborhood you came from, there was a job for you. Quite literally, many women told me, that once people realized they lived in Clichy the only internship offered to their daughters was working in a kebab shop,” said Macron, referring to another poorer area outside the ring road.
“So, we asked many companies to offer a different sort of engagement. Which has already resulted in 30,000 companies giving young people a first position. A small cultural revolution, that helped us to resist the pandemic. And one reason why France has its smallest youth unemployment in 15 years,” said Macron, dressed in a steel gray, two-button suit, black lace-ups and tie, and a red Légion d’honneur in his buttonhole.
“That’s another reason 19M is so important. It’s mentoring to bring down the walls that deny all your young people equal chances,” added Macron. As is customary when any French president moves about the country, this was a significant security operation, with scores of CRS paramilitary police, who closed down the square outside 19M for several hours.
Named for its arrondissement and métiers, 19M is a 25,000-square-meter center designed by architect Rudy Ricciotti, which groups together 600 professionals – from embroiders (Lesage) and bootmakers (Massaro) to milliners (Maison Michel) pleat makers (Lognon) and feather suppliers (Lemarié), in a truly unique constellation of skills and know-how.
Macron was introduced by Bruno Pavlovsky, president of fashion at Chanel, and the main driver behind 19M, which includes 11 craft houses; a school of embroidery; and artisans working with over 40 storied French brands – from Dior to Givenchy.
“19M is an expression of 35 years devotion to the Métiers d’Art. And it is in an emblematic place on the frontier of Aubervilliers and Paris. Over 600 artisans – from apprentices to experienced artisans – work here. Over one third of them under the age of 30…. In France today we have a real challenge – the needs of our industry in terms of artisans are far greater than the amount of talent we find,” stressed Pavlovsky.
Both speeches emphasized the key role fashion plays in France.
“Luxury and fashion are together a flagship of our country which provide 600,000 jobs. Plus, they are good jobs, skills whether for academics, artisans, manual labor or professional. The industry is the leading export sector of our country. Plus, every region of France has their factories and craftsmen. It is an essential part of the rayonnement of France,” enthused Macron, employing the French concept that its culture radiates the world with light.
“Each gesture I witnessed today in 19M has its roots in our history. How they are passed from hand to hand, and they are extraordinarily difficult to pass on, especially as they are jealously guarded by the women of each house. So, thank you for perpetuating these great French skills,” smiled Marcon, nodding at Pavlovsky.
Chanel laid the first stone back in September 2018 for 19M. Many of the skilled craft companies Chanel acquired were being managed by their third generation. Often in companies founded in the early 19th century, where everything has been recorded and archived, helping to inspire a new generation of designers.
Perched on a hill in north Paris, 19M’s airy five floors are finished with white metal tentacles, suggesting giant strips of thread.
“That expresses the role each person plays in any creative endeavor. If a small concrete piece broke at the bottom, the building would not stay up. Similarly, fashion is like a knitted jersey, if one stitch comes apart everything unravels. And that’s how each of us must think of our individual role. Even if it is small it is still vital. If it is not perfectly done, then the whole project can fail,” concluded Macron, sounding more and more like a candidate.
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