Gabrielle ‘Coco’ Chanel’s immense legacy continues to be celebrated as the iconic ‘Gabrielle Chanel. Fashion Manifesto’ exhibition by the Palais Galliera, Fashion Museum of the City of Paris, lands in London this month. Curated by the Victoria and Albert Museum in South Kensington, the exhibition features 200 never-before-seen looks as well as jewellery, accessories, and perfumes that are a testament to how the revolutionary designer reshaped the way contemporary women dress today.
Other than that, the showcase is set to reveal her innovative use of fabric, silhouettes, and construction, along with her methods to create an entirely novel framework for fashion. And, of course, a trip down memory lane wouldn’t be complete without acknowledging her close ties to the nation—from her taking on the tweed to her partnerships with British textile companies and textile factories in Huddersfield. With ten themed sections to discover, here’s what you can anticipate from the exhibition:
Titled Towards A New Elegance, the first segment delves into her early years as a milliner and how her first store on the rue Cambon in Paris led her to branch out into clothing. Here, you will find one of the earliest surviving Chanel garments that stands in stark contrast to today’s voluminously decorative styles.
The following chapter, The Emergence of a Style, shines a spotlight on Chanel’s distinct aesthetic from the 1920s and 1930s. All of the outfits that have been seen on the stage and in films—including the infamous little black dress—can be found here.
If you are fond of fragrances, you’ll enjoy the next segment, The Invisible Accessory, where you can learn how Chanel built her name as a scent artisan and charmed the world with her debut perfume, N°5. Following its great success, she expanded her line of business and debuted a line of cosmetics and skincare, making her a jill of all trades.
Elsewhere, the Luxury and Line stays true to its name as evening wear takes centre stage with careful proportions that ooze sophistication and simplicity. This section also includes ‘Bijoux de Diamants’, her first and only series of fine jewellery commissioned by the International Diamond Corporation of London.
Halfway through the exhibition, you will encounter Closing the House, a chapter that discusses how the onset of World War II impacted the way she lived and worked. But, just as there is a rainbow after every storm, the fashion icon returns to the scene with an assortment that incorporates her signature hallmarks, a fresh image that embodies the wardrobe of the current woman.
The Suit subsequently pays homage to the after-war collection with close to fifty ensembles in an eclectic array of hues on two levels. The Chanel suit, for instance, is a marriage of style and ease that is still a fashion benchmark even to this day. Added to this, the Chanel Codes highlights accessories like the 2.55 purse and two-tone slingback shoes, which have come to be vital to the House’s idea of a seamless silhouette.
Into the Evening, on the other hand, depicts how evening wear occupies a place in Chanel’s couture designs in the later stages of her career, while Costume Jewellery shows how Chanel raises the bar for costume jewellery by pulling inspiration from various settings and historical periods.
After nine segments, A Timeless Allure ties everything to a close by drawing attention to the evening gown with ensembles exhibited on the famous mirrored staircase modelled on the designer’s atelier. Each look points out how, up until the Spring/Summer 1971 collection, Chanel had the courage to truly give it her all and consistently refine her signature style.
Before the exhibition opened to the public, House ambassadors and Friends of the House like Alexa Chung, Keira Knightley, and Naomi Campbell gathered at the esteemed museum to celebrate its grand opening. Swipe through to see which other celebrities graced the launch.
Address: Cromwell Rd, London SW7 2RL, UK
When: September 16, 2023 to February 25, 2024
Opening hours: 10AM – 5.45PM (Saturday to Thursday) / 10AM – 10PM (Friday)
Find more information about the exhibition on this website.
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