Chanel Mademoiselle Prive Exhibition opened in London between 13th October – 1st November 2015. No better setting than the modern Saatchi Gallery on the Kings Road. Noted for its fashion history, array of fashion boutiques and famous names the Chanel exhibition is not out of place here .
Founded in 1909 by Gabrielle ‘Coco’ Chanel this fashion house has become one of the most sought after and luxurious brands of the 21st century. Chanel revolutionised the fashion world with its use of jersey fabric to offer something affordable and comfortable. Garments for women became functional and often flattering to the female form replacing the structured silhouettes of corsets and bodices.
Most famously known for its ‘little black dress’, perfumes and pearls. Chanel is far from the affordable clothing range it started as. With more luxurious fabrics and more elaborate embroidery being used to create the garments of today. Chanel has made bold statements with it’s clothing and visual artistic direction. With Karl Lagerfeld at the helm for the last 30 years it continues to thrive not only as brand but as a way of life.
The Saatchi has showcased some of the worlds most exclusive exhibitions, Chanel has taken over the space and transformed each room to fit the classic Chanel aesthetic. Off white walls and black trim envelope the room as if you are standing in a Chanel perfume box and not in central London. The soft sent of Chanel No. 5 is in the air as you enter the gold and black wooden glade entrance through the manicured and specialised designed gardens.
‘Chanel has commissioned landscape gardens Harry and David Rich to create a unique seasonal english garden at the Saatchi gallery for Mademoiselle Prive. A homage to Gabrielle Chanel’s life, the garden is divided into three parts: ‘Liberty’ evoking her
passion for freedom; ‘Boy Capel’ the love of her life; and ‘Leo’ her astrological star sign and symbol of her strength.
As a follower of Chanel and fashion you know the story but as you wander through the exhibition you get an extraordinary new understanding of the history of Chanel, the impact that Coco Chanel still has on the house and the designs being produced every year for multiple collections. The Creative Director may have changed but the essence has not.
As you continue through the exhibition, key influences and pieces are dominating features within every room. In one room fabric drapes from the ceiling creating a maze of cloth which brushes over and through the fingers of the spectator. If you close your eyes you imagine the soft tweed of a Chanel suit. Illustrations, video explanations and music guide you through the space as if guiding you through the process a designer goes through when designing.
The soft aroma of Chanel No. 5 is still lingering in every room you walk through, you consider if it has perhaps being piped in some how. It only becomes apparent when you fill into the main room at the rear of the Saatchi. Large circular vats with closed lids are dotted around the room with ingredients printed on the top. One by one the lids are opening slowly and releasing waves of fragrance into the room. This is what is then being transported around the whole exhibition with the movement of spectators eager to see the next room and wonder of Chanel.
Heaven for any fashion conscious individual, the next room allows you to be part of a Chanel fashion show. Plotted out in the room are the hedges and greenery of the 2011 runway show. Sitting upon the green bush hedges you half expect to see Cara Delevingnie, Coco Rocha or Kendell Jenner appear from behind the surrounding wall and walk around the salon style layout. Instead people mingle and chat and takes pictures with the back drop and envisage themselves sat on the front row.
There is a whisper and a murmur from spectators about the lack of clothing and illustrative features so frequently seen in fashion house exhibitions. Chanel forever teasing the spectating audience and taking you on an exploration are clearing aware of this. The whisper
soon fades as you reach the top floor, you proceed out of the perfume box and into two adjacent dark rooms with more clothes than any Kings Road fashion boutique could stock. Enormous circle platforms dominate the first of the two rooms with stark beams of light illuminating the elegant gowns on display. Each platform has six pieces to showcase, as crowds of people navigate their way though the labyrinth of sparkle, thread and cloth.
Chanel is famed for its muses, for the women it attracts to the brand and for its very lasting elegance and style. This is cleverly depicted in the second of the two rooms of clothing. Hung of the walls are portraits of the muses and famous faces from past and present: Freya Beha Erichsen, Keira Knightly, Kirsten Stewart, Rita Ora and Julianne Moore. In the centre of the room is a selection of the clothing wore by these women at events, on the red carpet or famously at the Casino created for the Chanel’s Couture Fall 2015 Show in Paris.
Wandering around the room admiring the garments it’s clear to see why the brand is one of the most sought after. It’s timeless fashion that continues to be contemporary.
There is no more of the exhibition to explore. For this is the end of the story… for now. You exit the Saatchi having been transported through time and history of the Chanel. Inspired and craving more you can’t but wonder when the next time Chanel will create such an exhibition and the crowds it will draw. Many people leaving don’t speak to each for several minutes as they are still taking in what they have just seen. Even those with very little understanding of Chanel and the fashion industry can appreciate the wonder that is…