Uncovering Chanel: A Parisian Legacy

Celebrating the creativity and achievements of the ever-iconic Coco Chanel, London’s Saatchi Gallery recently hosted ‘Mademoiselle Privé’, a new exhibition masterminded by the fashion power-house’s current creative director Karl Lagerfeld. This is a unique and charming glimpse into the world and rich history behind the world of Chanel. 

Last Saturday, I stood among the loyal customers and keen admirers of the renowned brand who braved an hour long queue along with London’s fashion enthusiasts. It was definitely worth it to get behind the scenes access into the creativity, brains and history responsible for the success and recognition Chanel has earned over the last century. This was a real opportunity to understand the story behind that iconic ‘double-C’ logo. I felt instantly transported into the world of Haute-Couture, while at the same time, enjoying the multi-sensorial experience of the eternally chic ‘Chanel No.5’.

Installed throughout all three floors of the gallery, the experience was thoroughly immersive. It revealed the true origins of Coco Chanel’s design inspirations, demonstrating their timeless presence within the brand throughout its ongoing success. Following the massive success of Lagerfeld’s Paris Fashion Week offering, (cue: Chanel Airlines) displaying Chanel’s SS16 collection, the exhibition highlighted how subtly Chanel updates and tweaks their consistent design and creative style each season, importantly keeping Mademoiselle Chanel’s legacy at the heart of the design process. It was not merely textiles and colours that influenced the designer however, but also a number of important places. The typically Parisian ‘Place Vendôme’ was the inspiration for the octagonal cap of her first perfume Chanel No.5) as well as becoming the location of the designer’s first studio.

Beatriz Ramalho da Silva
Beatriz Ramalho da Silva

Fashion aside, the gallery also exhibits a series of portraits and photographs of Mademoiselle Chanel, and other past and present muses, letting us uncover and really understand the ‘Privé’ behind the brand. These are the faces responsible for the precision and craftsmanship of each design. Whether a couture dress, a piece of fine jewellery or a collection created by Chanel in 1932, this was an exhibition of beauty and class. Ensuring it did not have that perhaps mundane museum-type feel to it, the showcase was futuristic: each room offered an explanatory narration to accompany the engaging and mostly stunning visuals. I also had the option of downloading a free app to ‘compliment my experience’, providing additional facts and interesting quotes – how very twenty-first century.

Overall, Mademoiselle Privé successfully portrays Chanel as a brand that can be characterised by its increasingly modern interpretation of unique classicism. Coco Chanel was a lady who revolutionised fashion in the roaring twenties, transformed the perception and style of women, introduced the androgynous look and succeeded in creating a brand that will continue to dominate the fashion world. A fitting exhibition for a pretty outstanding lady, really.

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