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words and photography SHINI PARK guest of CHANEL & BARRIE
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In what I can only describe as fickle (AF. Excuse my French) and fundamentally confusing times that is managing to spur a notoriously apathetic generation and an ENTIRE GENDER to be hot and bothered, my visit to Barrie Knitwear in Hawick, Scotland comes as a balm.
There is an air of enduring timelessness to Barrie, suppliers of Chanel knitwear: a distinct lack of fuss or noise, save for the gentle whirring of machines and crisp snip-snaps from thread cutters sprinkled across a well-lit assembly hall. The main objective: the craft. It’s a no-brainer. It’s evident in the sculptural jumper worn by my guide (whom I end up awkwardly hugging/petting in the end, because CASHMEEEERE), in the knitted brows (see what I did there) of the men and women mounting the rib panel stitch-by-stitch, and the multiple quality control stations that punctuate the entire process.

It has been quite a journey to reach this point, my guide tells me, however. In 2012, Barrie’s holding company had hit a financial bind and was forced into administration, which is when Chanel’s subsidiary company Paraffection (meaning “for love”) had given a hand in the name of savoir-faire. This poignant purchase has since aided the mill in securing scores of jobs, serving the Hawick community, and resuming some 140-year heritage and expertise. In a sense, arguably it’d been a natural acquisition, given that Chanel had been working with Barrie for thirty years’ prior on producing twin-sets and the perennial two-tone cardigans that is still a staple of the brand. No stitch was to be dropped (aren’t I just full of puns today) in Barrie’s cause for highly finessed knitwear production.

Photos – Shini Park

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…filled with the cosmopolitan, high-rolling glitterati that famously adorned the Ritz.

Chanel’s Metiers D’Art returns to Paris for the brand’s sixth and final collection of 2016, right back to the hallowed lobby of the recently renovated Ritz, where Coco Chanel famously lived from 1937 throughout World War II, and died in 1971. While a centre-piece of French pastries and cookies needs no excuse, the show – served up in three sittings at lunch, tea and dinnertime, was filled with the cosmopolitan, high-rolling glitterati that would have visited the Ritz in its heydays.

Weaving in between the tables, dancing with the occasional ‘stranger’ (who turns out was a dance duro), the models wore midi-skirts with deep V-neck tops to match, bubble-capes and hair veils decorated with roses. As look number 42 sauntered by, I recognised the golden tunic that was merely a sketch and a swatch panel when I’d visited Barrie just two weeks past.

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Catwalk Photos: Chanel

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State-of-the-art knitting machines are used to achieve precise and complex designs

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A stitch-by-stitch pattern is constructed based on sketches from Paris.

While final design input is made by Chanel, Barrie’s technical know-how is trusted in composing the best creation method.

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An artisan scores a clean-cut button hole on a Chanel two-tone cardigan

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Below: Once knitted, the panels are washed and softened – but no chemical products are used (Only the water from Teviot river is to to praise!) This process is not operated by a timer, but by an experienced technician who determines the doneness with his hand.

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Rib panels are mounted onto the needles, stitchby stitch, which requires precision and experienced hands to ensure the quality of knit meets Chanel’s exacting demands.

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All Chanel knitwear is made in the ‘fully fashioned method’, which results in neater seams.

Above: a steady hand boldy shears through a cardigan in its final stages.

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In the design room, I make a bee-line to a wall tiled with Karl’s sketches (I tend to dart off the leash at Chanel factories…), feeling a little naughty as I glean hints of the upcoming Metiers D’Art collection. The nonchalant hand-written annotations by the Chanel design team illustrate how the production process is a well-versed collaboration between the two studios. These rough sketches are then used by Barrie technicians to construct the pattern, stitch-by-stitch, using a highly mathematical application that look like impossible pixel-art to me. I have a hard time wrapping my head around the fact that there can be as many as four Chanel collections, in varying technical complexities, in development and production at any given time. I can’t even do my laundry while the water is boiling.

It’s a gruelling process. Assembling one piece can take up to 40 steps, involving state-of-the-art Shima Seiki machines from Japan, as well as some near-extinct industrial beasts from the 70’s. But the star of the process is the hands, and that’s ultimately what the Chanel customer pays for: the meticulous and rigorous care of highly-skilled artisans.

As a parent-company, Chanel endorses the pursuit for the ‘best’, and this resonates through Barrie as every trainee, technician, craftsman, work towards indisputable quality and quiet over-achievements. And this, especially in a landscape of dubious origins and sub-par quality products (and politicians), is something sure worth paying for.

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creative direction & production SHINI PARK photography assistance SIMON SCHMIDT supported by CHANEL & BARRIE

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Hop, skip and a world away

As we start to make somewhat of a dent in this brand new year (mine still in its original packaging – MINT! – as 2016 continues to die hard with a stubborn cold and badly time-manged deadlines I’d inherited from pre-holiday frenzy), I realise that I had unknowingly scratched off a bucket list item in the infamous year that will probably go down in history as this one word: Asshole. The funny part of this is though, I had no idea Scotland (and a nine-hour car drive) was even on my bucket list.

Now, this is in no way a passive dig at our Northerly neighbours or the tourism board’s general gallant efforts. If it helps to explain things, according to many of my well-informed Londoners (and non-Londoners alike), one of the best seafood joint in town is mere 3 minute around the corner from my flat. Eleven years on, I am yet to set foot in this establishment.

Some have cried that it’s basically a crime, especially should you love oysters (+ wine and soda bread) as passionately I do. “LATER!” is the battle cry. Now apply the same dawdle-logic to Scotland, and voila – the allegory works, right down to the oyster detail*.

Alas, I had an appointment to keep, Tuesday 29th, 11:30AM at the factory doorsteps of Chanel group’s renowned knitwear suppliers: Barrie. On Monday 28th, exactly 24hours prior, we loaded a car with three strapping men (more on this later) and a suitcase-load of Chanel/Barrie samples. We knew not what the road held in store for us – only snacks and wholehearted road-trip joshing – but once we crossed that border in Gretna Green, every hour it scratched at the new-fangled bucket-list item: Scotland.

*After having sampled fresh-picked rock oysters off Fort William after this very shoot, it transpires that indeed it was a crime to have lived without said Scottish jewel.

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full look CHANEL AW 2016 knitwear produced at BARRIE

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cashmere cardigan BARRIE skirt, boots, gloves and hat CHANEL AW16

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cashmere cardigan CHANEL

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Necklace – Chanel AW16 Costume Jewellery
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There is no better way to interpret Karl’s ‘Front Row Only’ Chanel AW16 collection at the helm of what is possibly Great Britain’s best scenery, silently but majestically unfolding atop our very windshield, and Barrie’s cream-cashmere in its own home ground. The setting is somewhat reminiscent of the immaculately cow-mowed rolling hills of Austria, save for the mob of sheep and mossy rocks, underneath one highly expressive heavens. FREEDOM! It seemed to cry (a la a certain M.Gibson), as we ambled about the glen (valley) on the look for backdrops. We were spoilt for choice. In a sense, within the medley of sepia, fir green and cloud greys, broken up only by a tuft of spruce forest with a wisp of fog in its hair, the landscape was that of nature’s best couture salon.

More on Barrie soon, I promise.

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photography SHINI PARK hosted by CONRAD MALDIVES supported by CHANEL

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Swimsuit – ONIA. Sunglasses – Chanel.

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Power of nook and cranny

This is something I noticed only on my second jaunt to the Indian Ocean, but the Maldives isn’t your usual fly-and-flop destination. It’s an archipelago of paradise islands that is as close to blank canvas as you can get on a holiday. There is no silver screen reference starring a Hepburn sister, or stripy/nautical uniform a la French Riviera, and certainly no techno beats reverberating out of the clubhouse, courtesy of DJ Ibiza. There are no rules, or things ‘you must/mustn’t do’ (i.e Do not order a Mai Tai in Saint Tropez). In fact, you may have troubles packing for your first time. All that’s provided is nature in its incorrupt, innocent entirety, and wholehearted Maldivian hospitality. Add to that: Sun (unabridged), celestial skies, immaculate coral beaches and at times, warm rain. The Conrad Maldives understands this well, which is one of the many reasons for my return. The two private islands – joined by a footbridge overlooking the occasional manta ray – is full of nooks and crannies. This lends an illusion of being alone on an island, with a fully-equipped gym, water sports centre and a sunrise yoga session, or an excellent in-villa dining menu and a comprehensive DVD library, if you wish. It’s a DIY holiday – any agenda fits.

The dress code? Come as you are. White does swell, but any colour you find in the Maldivian sunset is a safe bet. No heels, unless it’s a ‘housewarming’ item, like your favourite candle from home.

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Don’t miss the fish (read: shark) feeding at Mandhoo
Conrad Maldives Rangali Island
Rangali Island, Rangali 20077, Maldives
+960 668-0629
hilton.com
Scarf – Nazanin Rose Matin. Sandals – Chanel. Swimsuit – ERES. Sunglasses – Chanel. Bracelet – X JEWELLERY

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sunglasses CHANEL bracelet X JEWELLERY towel CHANEL swimsuit ERES

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Boyfriend shirt – ASOS. Pouch – Loeffler Randall

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photography SHINI PARK
In a way, the world begins at 18, non?

Eighteen. A number not commonly spotted in the usual roster of suspects, nor accompanied by some far-fetched superstition that leads 4’s to be scratched off elevators and 13’s to haunt perfectly innocent Fridays; it is perfectly harmless, almost mundane. Little do we realise that 18 is, in fact, a glorious number. A not round but so-very-round figure that bottles in just enough experience, evolution and ‘manhood’ for a product to be deemed ready for the world.

Be it in a gawky, all-arms-and-legs teenager or a dusty bottle of Bordeaux from your parents wedding, 18 of anything is a painstaking process of trial & error, handicraft and refinement. Even if Joe’s braces aren’t coming off until next Springtime. Chanel is a master of said 18, hours of which it takes (depending on material) for one handbag to be produced. Each is subject to meticulous care, from sketch to packaging – every step sanctioned by quality control – after which it is then ready to begin its story. Now multiply this by decades of finesse and perfection.

The skins are preserved in a temperature controlled chamber

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Each is subject to meticulous care, from sketch to packaging – every step sanctioned by quality control – after which it is then ready to begin its story.

A range of hand-made mock-ups are produced before selecting a final prototype nased on proportions and stitching details.

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I’m not going to lie, when I climbed in that van outside Hotel Costes I promised myself to Jason Bourne the crap out of the ride, ready to count the minutes between each turn and memorize particular kinks in the road. Just to be able to be privy to – if not trace back for personal pleasure and some light stalking of – one of fashion’s best-kept secrets: the address to the Chanel handbag factory. Alas, my carb-y lunch had been filling, washed down with a glass of white wine, and by the fourth junction out of La Défense, I was out like a decommissioned traffic light. I might as well have had a dust-bag over my head.

We arose to the sound of soft crackle of gravel as the van pulled into the entrance to a handsome building covered in matte-black tiles that resembled the iconic Chanel quilting. The interiors airy corridors in calming tones bouncing off diffused natural light. Workers and craftsmen weaved past us, practically gliding, talking in gentle tones no louder than the soft, diligent whirring of the machines. A cart with a small stack of lemon-yellow leather hide wheeled by – perhaps a limited-edition 11.12 in its infancy – as I made a bee-line to the table where the quilting was being stitched. Room after another, I dashed, mid-sentence – to a corner where the logo hardware was being set, to the station where seams were being hammered… At one point I’m certain I caught my poor guide glancing at a spool of bag chain, no doubt contemplating a makeshift leash.

The iconic 2.55 throughout the ages

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Don’t spend time beating on a wall, hoping to transform it into a door.
Coco Chanel

Not one bag is the same, multiply that by six collections produced each year under Karl’s boundless design direction, then add a challenge of technical variation for each. Heck, throw a differentiation equation in there for good measure, and that should adequately sum up the level of expertise exercised in the factory. The same building houses also nearly 3,000 bags in archive, forming a rich library of inspiration for designers and craftsmen but also a thick resume of Coco Chanel-class problem-solving skills. “Don’t spend time beating on a wall, hoping to transform it into a door.” The factory certainly was all doors, all solutions.

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Many thanks to Chanel UK for the rare peek behind the scenes.


How a Chanel 2.55 is made
photography courtesy of CHANEL
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The aged calfskin is quilted by needlework according to a lozenge “diamond” pattern.

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A template is placed onto the leather and cuts the different components, which are then individually lined with thin foam.

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The emblematic double C is sewn onto the leather, appearing underneath the flap inside the bag.

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The two bags are placed one within the other to create a single bag and then assembled; this is the “bag in the bag” technique.

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Eyelets are inserted on the bag for a chain made of flat links in metal known as the “jewellery chain”. A rectangular turn-lock clasp, called the “Mademoiselle lock”, is positioned.

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The bag is complete and the finishing touches are checked before it is packed and sent to the CHANEL boutiques.


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Sweater – Charlie May. Trousers – Rodebjer. Choker – By Boe (similar). Necklace – Louis Vuitton. Bag – Coach ‘Swagger 27′

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#givecoachorelse

Coach holiday campaign #GiveCoachorElse

It’s that time of year again, when you’ve just done dusting Halloween sweets off your chin and immediately a school of reindeers materialize above you, harnessed by a string of fairy lights, attached to a (glittery, it has to be glittery) sleigh of some sort. You yell ‘STAHhhP’ and try to protest, but you can’t deny that the days are shorter, colder and that toffee nut latte is exactly the thing you need to replenish the calories lost shivering in your ill-heated office. You feel bad and dust the top with a bit of your husband’s banana-tasting protein powder, for which you later get yelled at for spilling all over his gym bag.

Yep, even I – the self-proclaimed Cynic – have taken to mentally dividing shops into gift categories (i.e bag of sweet potatoes at Tesco’s = Husband) and threatening for certain gifts – quite like the cheeky new Coach #GiveCoachorElse holiday campaign, where the Coach girl gets exactly what she asked for. I’m excited to share with my readers here first. See, it’s my kind of campaign, because 1) I, the cynic, have always wanted to punch Santa and 2) one really should be clearer about what they want unless they wanted a drugstore hairbrush for the holidays. This bag, husband, this bag. And vouchers for Five Guys.

In collaboration with Coach as the season’s digital ambassador.

Disney characters strung up on a massive dead fir is definitely my kind of Christmas tree
London St Pancras station
Leather shearling trench- Coach. Bag – Coach ‘Swagger 27′

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Leather shearling trench- Coach. Trousers – Simon’s own. Brogues – Chanel. Bag – Coach ‘Swagger 27′. Luggage – Globe Trotter. Sweater – Coach.

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