I love a love story. Especially when an unlikely pair makes it work and gets together in the end. But while opposites attract in fiction…in real life, those dynamics look more like your friend going back to her dirtbag ex over and over again. And that’s a story I’d rather skip. So when Chanel hosted their CHANEL 2023/24 Métiers d’art show in this unexpected Northern English city for its latest show, critics and fashion lovers were divided. Was this surprising move a testament to the enduring power of the unlikely pair? Or was it a bad PR move that made no sense for the brand?
CHANEL 2023/24 Métiers d'art Show — CHANEL Showswww.youtube.com
First, you have to understand Manchester to attempt to understand why Chanel popped up there. When most Americans think of England, they only think of London. Or Kate Winslet’s Surrey cottage in The Holiday. Only thanks to Love Islandhave Americans learned that most British people don’t sound like Henry from Red, White, and Royal Blue. They sound like Jack from Season 2 of The White Lotus.
This is to say, there’s more to England than meets the eye — and most of it is damp, gritty, and so much cooler than West London. Especially in the North. As someone who grew up in Northern England, I have my fair share of Northern pride. Mostly because we have the best music — think: Oasis, The Clash, and even The Beatles.
Manchester is one of the biggest Northern cities. I always compare it to Chicago for its size and relevance, but it also reminds me of Boston because of its relentless football (soccer) teams, and the iconic Old Trafford stadium, which has as much cult fanaticism as Fenway.
Manchester is also known as the home of a highly influential music scene. Rock and alternative royalty came out of Manchester. The Stone Roses, The Hollies, The Bee-Gees, and even The Smiths all hail from the city…which in the 80s was affectionately called Madchester for its indie-rave party scene. And many current rock bands cite the Madchester music scene as one of their primary influences.
This legacy of cultural richness is perhaps why Manchester has been bestowed new life as one of the most exciting cities in the UK. Imagine my surprise when a city I grew up taking the train to was suddenly a bucket list destination for my American friends. They even recently got a Soho House. And now, they’ve had a Chanel show. But not everyone is glad at the recent gentrification of Manchester — and the Chanel show seems to be the final horseman of the apocalypse.
It seems like everywhere we look, people are complaining about inflation and recessions. In the UK, the cost of living crisis has been affectionately nicknamed the “cozzie livs.” But don’t mistake this whimsy for nonchalance. Everyone, especially young people, can feel the effects of rising prices. Turns out the economic prosperity promised by Brexit was a lie, huh?
So increasing rent prices from trendy tourist attractions is the last thing residents of Manchester need, but it’s a trend that’s been slowly taking over for years. Now, the Chanel show is proof that industries that thrive on inequality — like designer fashion — have their eye on the city. But when people are struggling to make ends meet, do they really want a Chanel show?
On the other hand, some people have praised Chanel for finally paying attention to cities outside New York, London, and Paris. Celebs flew down to the city in droves, including Kristen Stewart, Rebecca Marder, Zhou Xun, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, and Akemi Fox. Plus, the collection paid homage to this city’s rich history. The clothes put their own spin on football fashion, music, and the alternative-punk aesthetics that were popularized there.
However, is acknowledgment from a historically exclusive brand really what the city needs? Coco Chanel herself was hardly a champion of inclusivity, that’s for sure. And celebs descending down into the city they’ve never shown interest in before just for the show wearing outfits that cost more than most people’s monthly salaries feels jarring. Protestors even lined up outside the show to voice their disapproval.
All I have to say is this: if you go to Manchester because you saw the Chanel show, what you get won’t be anything like you’re expecting. But the city is close to my heart, so I’d urge anyone to visit. But go for the culture that’s come out of Manchester, not for culture vultures like Chanel trying to profit from its aesthetics after the fact.