The Victoria and Albert Museum in central London is all dressed up in tweed suits, flous chiffon evening dresses, and maximalist jewelry. Mademoiselle Chanel has descended for the first UK exhibition dedicated to her work with Gabrielle Chanel Fashion Manifesto. Charting the evolution of her style and the establishment of the maison –from the opening of her first millinery boutique in Paris in 1910 to the showcase of her last collect in 1971, the exhibition is a must-see for any fan of elegance, liberty, and the paradox of femininity. Featuring some 200 looks including heritage pieces, along with accessories, perfumes, and jewelry, the Chanel exhibition is a re-imagined view of the exhibition organized by the Palais Galliera in Paris. Costumes designed for the Ballets Russes production of Le Train Bleu in 1924 are on view along with outfits made for the grand dames of Hollywood Lauren Bacall and Marlene Dietrich.
The exhibition also highlights Chanel’s British inspirations, such as her adoption of tweed. A grand room features rows of mannequins dressed in the iconic Chanel tweed suit. Tristram Hunt, Director of the V&A, remarks, “As one of the most successful fashion houses in existence, Chanel owes much to the templates first laid down by its founder Gabrielle Chanel, over a century ago.” Meanwhile, Director of the Palais Galliera, Miren Arzalluz says, “Gabrielle Chanel devoted her long life to creating, perfecting, and promoting a new kind of elegance based on freedom of movement, a natural and casual pose, a subtle elegance that shuns all extravagances, a timeless style for a new kind of woman. That was her fashion manifesto, a legacy that has never gone out of style.” Bruno Pavlovsky, President of Chanel SAS and President of Chanel Fashion, comments, “We are happy and honored that the first exhibition dedicated to Gabrielle Chanel to be held in the UK, will be presented at the V&A, one of the most prestigious museums in the world. Gabrielle Chanel was a legend in her own lifetime. This exhibition will analyze her contribution to fashion and her radical vision of a style that created modernity and reflected the aspirations of women and the evolution of their place in society.”
The exhibition is divided into ten sections including her career as a milliner, opening her first boutique on the rue Cambon in Paris in 1910, and further boutiques in the fashionable coastal resorts of Deauville and Biarritz. It focuses on how Chanel developed an identifiable signature style in the 1920s and 1930s. With clean lines, fluid materials, and a simplistic color palette, her designs were considered understated but also radical for their practical nature. A further room is dedicated to the iconic fragrance Chanel No. 5 and showcases a handwritten note from the late Queen Elizabeth II thanking a friend for the gift. The exhibition Gabrielle Chanel. Fashion Manifesto runs from 16 September 2023 – 25 February 2024 and the Victoria & Albert Museum London
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