Did you know it takes 83 days to hand-embroider a Chanel couture jacket? Here are 10 things we learned while checking out their Fall 2012 collection in New York

Chanel Couture Fall 2012
Photography by Peter Stigter
Chanel Couture Fall 2012
Photography by Peter Stigter

Every little bit counts: Arriving early for my 9am appointment in New York City to check out Chanel’s Fall 2012 Couture collection, I was ushered into the elevator along with Chanel employees clad in head to toe tweed. Even the elevator decor had been thoughtfully attended to, with an oversized portrait of Coco Chanel that matched Karl Lagerfeld’s drawing on my invitation card.

Okay, maybe not entirely head to toe tweed: I knew the agony I went through when selecting my outfit was not in vain when I discovered that the Paris-based PR girl showing me around was wearing the same pair of Alexander Wang sandals. Phewf!

Inspiration can come from anywhere: Marie Laurencin, 19th century painter and personal friend of Coco Chanel, provided pastel pink palette inspiration.

The collection was unusual in two ways: There were LOTS of pant options and it was accessories heavy. Karl reasoned that brushed metal details on shoes, bags, belts and fingerless leather gloves kept the look modern.

No detail was too small: Cuffs, collars, hems, buttons and linings all got the couture treatment.

Couture is certainly worth a closer look: Innovative fabric treatments and techniques were beyond what I even thought possible. A stiff lace and leather patchwork fabric had been beaten to keep its voluminous shape without the help of a crinoline. A sky blue sequined jumpsuit was hand painted to create an ombré effect. Subtle silver glitter was sprayed onto tweed to give a shimmering effect. Snipped black feathers were shaped and embroidered onto eveningwear.

There was a strong vintage influence: Draped jackets, mid-calf hemlines and higher collars all alluded to the collection’s “new vintage” theme.

Trompe l’oeil was the name of the game: What I initially though was classic Chanel tweed was in fact beads, sequins and wool embroidered onto tulle in tiny squares. A pleated hem peeking out from under a jacket wasn’t a light layer, but a panel meant to create a faux-layered look. And a white bib at the neck of a dress was actually a modesty panel sewn in as yet another vintage reference.

Take your time: Exit 41, a floor grazing trompe l’oeil tweed jacket and silvery sequined dress took the prize for most hours put in by les petits mains. In order to create the hand-strung strands of sequins and delicate embroideries it took 2000 hours. (That’s the equivalent of 83 days!)

You don’t mess with couture: When a hanger broke and a suit fell to the floor, there was an urgent scurry of activity as everyone lunged to retrieve it.