There are no words, just sadness, for the atrocities in Friday’s attack on Paris. #peaceforparis (Let’s not forget Beirut too).
This post is a little overdue. What better time to honour one of France’s most iconic figures. Coco Chanel.
Mademoiselle Privé, the Saatchi Gallery exhibition about the life and legacy of Coco Chanel was only on for just over two weeks. No wonder people came from all over the world and the queues, especially in the last few days, were horrendous! A mammoth undertaking, let me share with you some of the highlights for me.
Coco Chanel has had a flurry of recent biographies, films and now this exhibition. Most of these focus on her life, her loves and of course her iconic designs. This exhibition showed once again how forward thinking and modern she really was. Most of you will know that it’s Karl Lagerfeld who carries on the Chanel brand. This exhibition was very much geared to what Chanel is today, thanks to Karl Lagerfeld.
One of my favourite moments was a short film made by Karl Lagerfeld imagining an encounter between him and Ms Chanel. Coco, expertly played by Geraldine Chaplin, awakes on the sofa of her Rue Cambon apartment after forty years and confronts Lagerfeld about his work. “What do you think you are doing?” she asks, to which he replies “I am keeping you alive.”
As you entered the exhibition you saw the sketched figure of Coco Chanel. Mademoiselle Privé had it’s own app, which we were all encouraged to download. The app enhanced the experience with interactive content that was then revealed throughout the visit. For example, in one of the rooms you simply saw a door. If you held up your smartphone, the door opened and you saw a figure looking like Coco Chanel sit in her studio looking at fabrics. Real fun this augmented reality.
The first room you entered was a reconstruction of the mirrored staircase above Chanel’s salon, an image well covered in the latest biopics on Coco Chanel. She would sit on the stairs and observe the reaction of the audience.
Going through the next couple of rooms made me realise that this was indeed an ambitious exhibition. The recreation of Coco’s first ever shop, a Deauville hat store and subsequent rooms of showing books, paintings and summers spent in Scotland were all in black and white. The attraction here was moving animation and together with the app it made for an interesting and different experience.
One of the many highlights for me was the exciting space featuring the Chanel N0.5 perfume. It was a magical room, resembling a kind of laboratory, displaying futuristic white and gold-lidded wells filled with the perfume’s individual ingredients. The different wells, filling the room with many scents, open and close in rotation with lights coming on and off. The perfume is a complex formula and made up of around 80 components, including the famous ‘Aldehydes’. It was the first fragrance to ever bear the name of a fashion designer.
Coco Chanel challenged perfumer Ernest Beaux, who lived close to Grasse, the centre of the perfume industry, to the task. It took him several months to perfect a new fragrance but eventually came up with 10 samples and presented them to Chanel. They were numbered one to five and 20 to 24. She picked number five. It is rumoured that the concoction was actually the result of a laboratory mistake. Beaux’s assistant had added a dose of aldehyde in a quantity never used before.
There was a lot of queuing going on, both outside and inside. On the first floor, while waiting to enter the room of haute couture and jewellery, some evening dresses were spectacularly displayed by being supported by internal light rods.
After being in the queue what seemed for forever, I entered the wonderful room with a selection of some of Lagerfeld’s most iconic evening dresses, accessorized with an incredible diamond fine jewellery collection. This was designed by Coco Chanel in 1932 but displayed here for the very first time. You can imagine the security in this particular room. It was hard to get close to anything.
A lovely touch was the stunning photography (couldn’t see photographer’s names to credit and © here) of some of Chanel’s models and ambassadors, adorning the walls in this room.
And of course, we love Chanel for it’s craftsmanship and attention to detail.
There were a plethora of rooms divided on all three floors. On the day I went (the last weekend) they had regrettably already shut off the third floor. There was so much to see and experience but this post would be double as long if I showed you any more.
Having recently seen a few exhibitions from world class fashion houses, this one gets the thumbs up. It was a mammoth undertaking. I thought the Saatchi Gallery was a perfect venue. It was free. It was different and exciting. It was playful and didn’t take itself too seriously. Extending the exhibition’s dates would have possibly reduced those horrendous queues, but hey, you cannot have everything in life. I’m happy I go to see it.
This post will stay live until Monday 23rd November.