Even though its well-oiled society matrons have been Coco couture customers for decades, I never thought I’d say Chanel and Dallas in the same sentence. When it comes to fashion, it’s hard for Dallas to shrug off memories of ‘80s divas, shoulder-padded vixens whose OTT fashion excesses locked the Texan town in a primary coloured time warp.
That was until ‘Kaiser’ Karl Lagerfeld invaded Dallas with his 2013/14 Metiers d’Art traveling fashion extravaganza showcasing the work of Chanel artisans including costume jewelers, feather and flower makers and embroiderers. As a brigade of urban cowboys and cowgirls sporting denim, molten leathers, swinging fringed tweeds, American Indian-inspired embellishments and rich blanket weaves stampeded down a dirt floor runway at Dallas’s Fair Park, in one masterful stroke Kapitan Karl transformed down-home, honky-tonk, line dancing, country cook-outs into the epitome of cowboy couture.
Thomas Molesworth isn’t as famous as Karl Lagerfeld but in his day, his Western interiors, inspired by native arts and crafts and interpreted by his Shoshone Furniture Company in Cody Wyoming, were coveted by American capitalists and cattle barons whose descendants are probably in Chanel vendeuses’ contact books.
Born in 1890, his love for the romance and art of the Old West made him a pioneer of Western design and by the early 1930s, his timing couldn’t have been better. Titans of industry including the Rockefellers and Moses Annenberg commissioned him to furnish their Western retreats elevating the humble log cabin into a series of romantic ‘roomscapes’ filled with Western and Native American motifs. Sturdy cowboy furniture in trademark bright leathers and American Indian weavings featured routed chair frames, a heavy use of studs and leather thonging. For his growing list of clients, his luxe ranch interiors quickly became the Rolls Royce of a mythical wild west without any of its discomforts.
But you don’t have to be a mega-millionaire to get the Thomas Molesworth experience. Opened in 1911, The Historic Plains Hotel in Cheyenne was decorated twice by Molesworth during the 1930s. Walking into its Western-style lobby where his signature paddle armrest chairs are upholstered in bright red Chimayo weavings is like stepping into a parallel universe inhabited by cow pokes, gun slingers and good time girls in taffeta gowns. Overhead, a painted goatskin and leather light fixture is shaped like an inverted tepee and ‘Welcome Pardner’ is inscribed around the leadlight ceiling. Mirrors are framed in brown leather, the floor is tiled in mosaics and silhouettes of cowboys and animals are routed into occasional tables. The overall effect is rustic, sleek and comfortable – a marriage of the natural world with Native American motifs.
As with collectors of vintage couture, a new generation seeking to create authentic Western interiors began collecting museum-quality Molesworth in the late 1980s and early ‘90s to decorate their ski lodges and ranches. Like Lagerfeld, Molesworth incorporated symbols of Western heritage into his designs but rather than denim, wool and silks, he used fir for strength, poplar and magnolia timber for silhouetted designs.
They may be almost a century apart in their interpretations but both are the epitome of a bronco-busting style that’s unmistakably masculine laced with soft romantic notions of the Old West and while Chanel may not be as big as Texas (well nothing is, just ask a Texan), it sure is big on Western chic y’all.
The Historic Plains Hotel is in Cheyenne, Wyoming. www.theplainshotel.com
Rooms start from around USD95 a night.
To view Chanel’s 13/14 Metiers d’Art Dallas presentation, go to www.chanel.com