With Fashion Week in full swing, many Londoners, including myself, have style on the mind. As the who’s who of the industry from around the world line the front row, eager to see which trends will dominate AW2016, we are also reminded that true style is everlasting.
Last year I was lucky enough to experience a true representation of this timelessness at the Mademoiselle Privé exhibition, held at Chelsea’s Saatchi Gallery.
Spanning three floors, the exhibition was an immersive journey through the life of Gabrielle ‘Coco’ Chanel as she transformed from a little-known Parisian milliner, into a global fashion icon.
With the dedicated app in hand, we started our visit with a very long wait in a seemingly endless queue. Indicative of the influence Coco possessed, and the legacy she left behind, visitors were indefinable by common demographics—spanning all generations, backgrounds and style preference.
It was during this wait that the exhibition actually began—shuffling through a wonderland of hedges, blossoms and water features in a garden that had been specifically created by acclaimed landscape designers, Harry and David Rich.
Upon entering the gallery itself, we were transported into a paper dollhouse version of 1910, where we wandered Gabrielle’s Rue Cambon apartment and store. It was here that we saw the first glimpse of how digital would meet traditional throughout the exhibition, with moving caricatures of Gabrielle busily hopping between mirrors and frames.
Coco famously said, “My reason for choosing diamonds is that, dense as they are, they represent the greatest worth in the smallest volume.” Her affinity for diamonds was certainly well represented in the next space, where a giant rotating birdcage housed a supersized replica of a necklace she designed in 1932.
Nestled between the falls of silk and tweed in the sensory room, we once again saw Coco feverishly pinning and sewing—only this time her caricature had been replaced by a spirited silhouette. The flowing fabrics made the perfect frame for an oversized silver bucket, embellished with the iconic Chanel logo and overflowing with their signature chain.
Stepping away from fashion and towards fragrance, the next room was all about No.5. Filled with bubbling, whirring, delicious smelling vats—the space felt like Karl Lagerfeld’s take on Willy Wonka. With many visitors, including myself, lingering for quite a while—this room, full of surprise and airy wonder, was, evidently, a favourite.
In the next room, the Rich brothers worked their magic once again—creating a garden that was inspired by the orphanage where a young Gabrielle spent her childhood.
Dispelling the common belief that Chanel’s iconic CC logo came from her name, Gabrielle actually first spotted the interlocking motif in the building's Windows.
Now that we had submersed ourselves in the inspiration, it was time to take a look at the resulting beauty and, for the first time in the exhibition, the fusion of the two commanders of Chanel—Coco and Karl.
The next two rooms were lined with haute couture, diamonds and the likes of Julianne Moore, Kiera Knightly and Vanessa Paradis. The showing of a short film, depicting the ghost of Coco and her thoughts on Karl’s performance at the helm, was full of laugh out loud moments, but also reminded us that, whilst Coco set the tone for timeless pieces, it is Karl who has maintained Chanel’s reputation as one of the world’s most desired brands.
The deliberate design and detail of each element in the exhibition echoed the superior quality and sophisticated simplicity for which the brand has become to be known; proving that Chanel will, undoubtedly, remain to be everlasting.