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‘It’s weird’: mixed reactions as top secret Chanel show heads to Manchester

<span>Photograph: Christopher Thomond/The Guardian</span>
Photograph: Christopher Thomond/The Guardian

Manchester is known for many things: football, music, its reliably terrible weather. A top-secret luxury fashion event: not so much. No wonder many local people refuse to believe the rumours that Chanel had chosen the city as the location for Métiers d’Art, its annual luxury fashion show.

Bucket hats and cagoules, yes. Couture, non. But, sacrebleu, the rumours are true. Next week, the French fashion house will turn a “dingy” street in Manchester’s Northern Quarter into a catwalk.

Some object to a private company taking over a public space, shutting out local people. Others like the idea of a bit of Parisian sparkle under Manchester’s murky skies.

Explaining the decision to stage the show in Manchester, Bruno Pavlovsky, the president of fashion at Chanel, said the city was “audacious and interesting”, with the Northern Quarter home to many independent designers and businesses.

Chanel’s Métiers d’Art will be held in the city on 7 December. The opulent annual event, which was held last year in Dakar, Senegal, aims to embrace the workmanship and artistry of the various ateliers and artisans (known as métiers d’art) that work with the fashion house.

These ateliers specialise in crafts such as embroidery, featherwork, and shoemaking.

A building and the new roof in the Northern Quarter.
A glass roof is erected to protect models from the Mancunian weather. Photograph: Christopher Thomond/The Guardian

Thomas Street, where the event will be held, has been dominated by metal constructions and scaffolding since 17 November, as builders transform the residential road into a scenic greenhouse with a roof to protect models from the Mancunian weather.

The roof has become a particular hit with some who live near the Northern Quarter, with many wondering whether it would be a permanent feature.

Lee Butterfly, 43, who lives nearby, would like to see this put into action. “The Northern Quarter has loads of great bars, and it rains so much, it would be nice to sit outside all year through without getting wet; it’s a win-win for customers and businesses who would be able to accommodate more covers,” he said.

Not everyone is happy with the couturier’s choice of location. Hayley Flynn, a tour guide, said she should receive compensation as the show would cause disruption to her tours.

“If you’re in charge of major events that restrict access to streets and pay out business-disruption fees to venues, you should also spend some time researching more transient businesses you are disrupting and compensate them, too,” she said.

A ‘road closed’ sign and barriers block off Thomas Street.
The disruption and road closures have been a source of irritation for some local people. Photograph: Christopher Thomond/The Guardian

Flynn said for the past nine days most of her tours had been refused entry. “The event marshals told me they can’t give me a schedule of when the route will be accessible; cultural quarters should support small cultural businesses,” she added.

“It’s easier at this point to not run any tours during the month they are here, as I can’t rearrange childcare last minute or expect customers to rearrange either. But I can’t stop working for a month.”

The show, which is expected to attract celebrities from around the world, is a private event and details are scarce. Many local businesses have signed agreements with the council about the duration of shop closures and reimbursements for profits lost.

It’s weird having the show on such a dingy street in the Northern Quarter

Manchester city council said the event was closed to the public and declined to provide further details when contacted about the financial agreements made with Chanel and what appropriate arrangements had been made to accommodate disruption.

Other people who live around the Northern Quarter have differing views on the event, with some surprised at the location choice. Chloe Maylor, 29, a photographer from Manchester, said: “I think it’s quite a positive thing, although it’s weird having the show on such a dingy street in the Northern Quarter.”

Molly Carson, 25, and her mother, Jacqueline Carson, 59, have opposing views about the show, with Molly viewing it as a disingenuous stunt from the fashion brand.

She said: “I was actually in London when Burberry took over Bond Street and it must be a trend, they are just shutting down the area for aesthetics they know nothing about. I bet the council will make a profit, though.”

A crane, construction workers, and stewards fill Manchester’s Thomas Street, as the roof is constructed.
Thomas Street’s events team has told local people and business owners the Chanel show will celebrate Manchester and its culture. Photograph: Christopher Thomond/The Guardian

Jacqueline, however, believed the show would put Manchester on the map. “The fact that such a prestigious brand are holding their show here is massive. I mean, it’s not Primani [Primark] so, in my view, it’s a very good thing.”

A letter sent to local people and business owners from Thomas Street’s events team has been shared on X about the disruption caused. It said: “We are working with people across the city to produce this event that celebrates Manchester and its culture.

“As this event may cause some disruption, including closures of specific areas and local shops, our primary objective is to engage with the local community and minimize any inconvenience.”

Chanel did not respond to a request for comment.