Now playing: “Cry Baby” by The Neighbourhood
On Thursday, I visited the Mademoiselle Privé exhibition, held at the Saatchi Gallery in London.
The exhibition took visitors through an eye-opening journey of the woman behind one of the most well-known fashion brands in the world. Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel was revolutionary; for one, she is credited with liberating women from the constraints of the corseted silhouette and popularising a casual yet glamorous chic as the feminine standard of style in the post-WW1 era. A prolific creator of fashion, she created a legacy for herself, being noted for somewhat for the invention of the ‘Little Black Dress’ and the Chanel tweed suit, to name a few. Her creations have featured time and time again through history; Jackie Kennedy wore a strawberry-pink Chanel suit made of wool bouclé with navy trimmings and a trademark matching pillbox hat at the time her husband, John F. Kennedy, was assassinated in 1963. Marilyn Monroe famously once claimed that all she wore to bed was a few drops of Chanel No.5. Evidently, her influence extended beyond couture clothing, taking into careful aesthetic consideration jewellery, handbags, accessories and fragrance. Her signature fragrance, Chanel No.5, has become an iconic product.
What makes Chanel’s creations special is that she manages to embody femininity in all of her designs – one of those examples being a bottle-green, long-sleeved velvet dress. The velvet evokes luxury, the sleeves suggest modesty yet the silhouette allows the female form to be visible without being conspicuous. Similarly, there was a blazer-skirt suit with a black satin collar and thigh-high split up the centre of the skirt. Not quite gold, not quite silver, the outfit combined both femininity with a masculine edge, maintaining an attention to every detail that defines the craftsmanship, innovation and classicism of Chanel’s haute couture.
Twelve years after Chanel’s death in 1971, Karl Lagerfeld took over as chief designer at the French fashion house, and, decades later, incredibly still remains as creative director. Lagerfeld could be considered Chanel’s natural successor due to his natural passion as an auteur – contributing not only designs for the brand, he often films and photographs for Chanel’s campaigns as well as capturing portraits of female celebrities who embody the Chanel philosophy, spirit and image, making it more than simply a fashion brand, but a manifestation of art. Also, I believe it takes someone who appreciates the origins but also brings a new vision to such an iconic brand, and this quote from Lagerfeld sums up just how he was the perfect candidate to carry on the Chanel legacy: “What I do, Coco would have hated. The label has an image and it’s up to me to update it. I do what she never did. I had to find my mark. I had to what Chanel was to what it should be.”
So that was just a quick write-up about Coco Chanel and how her legacy lives on after experiencing the thought-provoking exhibition. I’m having issues uploading some of the images I took while I was there, so hopefully they’ll be up soon!
What do you think makes Coco Chanel such a defining part of fashion history? (If you thought I was going to end this with a Chanel quote, you were wrong. It’s been done enough times to revive Chanel from her grave.)