Karl Lagerfeld, creative director for Chanel, said that Coco Chanel would have closed her entire operation if it weren’t for America. And by America, he is referring, at least in part, to Dallas. Dallas, of course, is the home to luxury retailer Neiman Marcus which was among the first to bring the Parisian designs to the US when Chanel reopened in 1954. Celebrating the 60th Anniversary of Chanel’s return, Lagerfeld has chosen Dallas to host his next Metiers d’Art fashion presentation, entitled “Paris-Dallas”. The significance of this is of great international importance for Dallas. Our city has become one of national renown, giving into the demand for art, music, theater and other forms of culture that wealth often creates. Now, we begin a very large undertaking as a location of international renown. We are not New York and won’t ever compare. Nor are we Los Angeles. But we are in a development stage where we are becoming something very uniquely our own.
Members of the French press were very nasty to Gabrielle Chanel when she reopened the brand. Instead, Americans embraced it. In 1957, Chanel came to Dallas as the only recipient, that year, of the Neiman Marcus Award for Distinguished Service in the Field of Fashion. Lagerfeld himself has said of Texas that he loves the people and its culture. Perhaps it’s our unofficial slogan, “Keep Dallas Pretentious” that appealed to his sensibilities. He found Dallas a fitting backdrop not only for the momentous occasion of a Metiers d’Art show but also for his directorial debut of the movie “The Return,” chronicling Chanel’s return to business in the post World War II era. The movie will stream live on the Chanel website as it is debuted in Dallas on December 10th.
Indeed this is a momentous occasion for the city of Dallas as we grow, slowly, to become a world-class city. The success of our city was evident during the Great Depression when the town of Highland Park, one of America’s wealthiest enclaves, was being built. The city was essentially insulated from the widespread economic repercussions following the roaring twenties. We were able to simulate Beverly Hills’ urban planning, complete with a street, Beverly Drive, in tribute. In modern times, we have watched the re-population and revitalization of a downtown once left for dead and the aggressive expansion of Uptown, Oaklawn, Turtle Creek, the Design District, Lower Greenville, Highland Park and University Park. We have watched the culturally significant additions of the landscape of our city. This includes the creation of Klyde Warren Park, the expansion of the McKinney Avenue Trolley, the opening of nationally acclaimed new restaurants like FT33, infrastructure projects like the Calatrava-designed Margaret Hunt Hill bridge, the additions to our skyline like The Museum Tower and the Omni Hotel downtown, the creation of a cultural center with new opera houses and the Dallas City Performance Hall and the countless additions of new residential buildings, town homes and mega-mansions. Construction has been a constant in our city as the number of cranes that dot the skyline are hard to keep track of; so, too, are the number of corporations either moving here or already headquartered in Dallas.
What non-Dallasites may not know about Dallas is that we have the largest collection of wholesale showrooms in the world – The Dallas Market Center. In 6 million square feet of space, we host over 2000 showrooms that represent every product category from menswear, to women’s, juniors, contemporary sportswear, home furnishings and hard goods. We host over 50 markets per year and several hundred thousand national and international buyers. Neiman Marcus, JC Penney and Fossil are among the organizations that call Dallas home when it comes to our expansive retail and wholesale fashion industry.
I would imagine that the world press, and the fashion press especially, in addition to the buyers, celebrities and other notables that will attend this Chanel event, will view Dallas as the wild west, the next frontier and something they are rather unfamiliar with but perhaps intrigued by and curious about. I hope they drive the streets of Highland Park. I hope they are pleasantly surprised by a thriving metropolis of wealth and shiny-new-things. I hope they see our thirst for culture. I hope they get it.