The Life, Career of Coco Chanel – WWD

LONDON — The work and life of Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel will be on display at the Victoria & Albert Museum on September 16 in the museum’s Sainsbury Gallery.

“Gabrielle Chanel. Fashion Manifesto” will be the first UK exhibition dedicated to the French fashion designer, charting his six-decade career, from the opening of his first costume shop in Paris in 1910 to his last show in 1971.

The showcase will be divided into 10 sections, starting with “Towards A New Elegance”, which will explore Chanel’s rapid expansion from its haberdashery to its clothing.

“The Emergence of a Style” will focus on his minimal design aesthetic, which transitioned to the theater stage and silver screen; “The Invisible Accessory” marked the debut of the house’s famous No5 perfume and the launch of make-up in 1924 and skin care in 1927; “Luxury and Line” presents the home’s nightwear and Bijoux de Diamants, a unique collection of fine jewelry commissioned by Chanel in 1932 from the International Diamond Corporation of London; “Closing House” details how the war affected her business and personal life, including her return to the fashion scene in 1954 and the relaunch of her couture line; “The Suit” highlights how the Chanel suit became synonymous with uniform dressing; “Chanel Codes” examines how 2.55 bags and two-tone slingback shoes have endured; “Into the Evening” highlights Chanel’s couture and cocktail dresses; “Costume Jewellery” taps into Chanel’s playfulness with jewelery and rejects the conventions of fine jewellery; and “A Timeless Allure” will visit Chanel’s last spring 1971 collection.

L-r: lydia sokolova (née hilda munnings, 1896 - 1974), anton dolin (1904 - 1983), bronislava nijinska and leon woizikowsky in the diaghilev ballets russes production of 'le train bleu', london. Billed as jean cocteau's 'oper+tte dans+e', this was the only production of the ballet. The roles of the tennis champion (nijinska) and the golfer (woizikowsky) were the inspiration for suzanne lenglen and edward prince of wales respectively. Music by darius milhaud, choreography by bronislava nijinska, costumes by coco chanel and scenography by henri laurens. (photo: sasha/hulton archive/getty images)

Lydia Sokolova, Anton Dolin, Bronislava Nijinska and Leon Woizikowsky after the British premiere of ‘Le Train Bleu’ at the Coliseum Theater in London in 1924.

Getty Images

Based on an exhibition of the same name organized by the Palais Galliera in Paris in 2020, the exhibition will be reimagined for the V&A. It will present rarely seen pieces from the London museum collection alongside looks from the Palais Galliera and Patrimoine de Chanel, the heritage collection of the Parisian fashion house.

“This is really a precursor to the King’s state visits to Paris this weekend,” joked Tristram Hunt, director of the V&A, at the launch of the exhibition.

“This exhibition will explore his contribution to fashion and his radical vision of a style that created modernity and reflects the aspirations of women and the evolution of their place in society,” said Bruno Pavlovsky, President of Chanel SAS and President of Chanel Fashion.

C victoria and albert museum london 1

London’s V&A will host a major Chanel exhibition in 2023.

Peter Kelleher

The exhibition features over 200 looks, some seen for the first time, including costumes designed for the Ballets Russes production of “Le Train Bleu” in 1924; Dresses created for Hollywood stars Lauren Bacall and Marlene Dietrich and early examples of Chanel include evening trousers.

For the V&A, the Chanel exhibition follows the huge success of the ‘Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams’ exhibition.

Tickets for “Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams” held in 2019 sold out just three weeks after opening, attracting nearly 600,000 visitors. The exhibition ran from July to September of that year and was one of the most successful in the history of the museum.

“We knew ‘Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams’ would be popular, but we’ve been overwhelmed by the fantastic response from visitors to date,” Hunt said in 2019.

The biggest and most expansive British show for the House of Dior, it was a grand sweep of glitter, ruffled wool, sculpted jackets and floral prints and motifs. She shed light on the designer’s fascination with Great Britain, its defining ‘lines’ and looks, and her international outlook and historical inspirations.

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