The first exhibition in the UK dedicated to the visionary couturier Gabrielle Coco Chanel – Gabrielle Chanel. Fashion Manifesto will open on September 16th 2023 at the Victoria & Albert Museum.

The exhibition’s narrative thread will run through the designer’s sixthy years of innovation, from the opening of the first boutique in Paris in 1910 to the incredible and iconic last collection presented in 1971. Based on the exhibition Gabrielle Chanel. Fashion Manifesto organized by the Palais Galliera, Fashion Museum of the City of Paris, the exhibition will be reworked by the V&A by presenting pieces rarely seen in the museum’s collection, along with looks from the Palais Galliera and the Patrimoine de CHANEL – collections from the fashion French house’s heritage. Notable pieces will include one of Chanel’s earliest garments from 1916, original costumes designed for the 1924 production of Ballets Russes Le Train Bleu, dresses created for Hollywood stars Lauren Bacall and Marlene Dietrich, and an early example of Chanel’s innovative evening pants.

Bronislava Nijinska and Leon Woizikowsky in the Diaghilev Ballets Russes production of 'Le Train Bleu', London.

“Gabrielle Chanel was a legend in her own lifetime. This exhibition will explore her contribution to fashion and her radical vision of a style that created modernity and reflected women’s aspirations and the evolution of their place in society.”

– Bruno Pavlovsky, President of CHANEL SAS and President of CHANEL Fashion.

Courtesy Victoria and Albert Museum, London.
Courtesy Victoria and Albert Museum, London.
Courtesy Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

From the hat store at 21 rue Cambon Chanel would move on to the first boutique in Deauville, the Couture House in Biarritz and still later to the La Pausa villa in Roquebrune, which hosted the historic 1954 fashion show that sealed the official return to the Parisian scene of the Couture House where the 2.55 bag, tweed suits and black-tipped ballerina pumps were born. Gabrielle Chanel rewrote the fashion world, transforming that hat store, and her name, into one of the most important maisons ever.

Dorothy Little-Bara priest Paris Vogue, 1960.

Thus among the rooms of the museum will unfold a narrative divided into ten chapters as well as rooms, each of which will focus on a specific historical period in Coco Chanel’s life and the changes she brought to the world of fashion. “Luxury and Line” for example, will tell the story of the first assemblage of evening gowns and Bijoux de Diamants, the first and only signed Chanel collection of high jewelry commissioned by the International Diamond Corporation of London in 1932. There will be no shortage of rooms entirely devoted to the Maison’s key elements, such as “The Suit” which will unveil the secrets of Chanel’s iconic suit-and of the revolutionary tweed, a fabric discovered by the founder during a trip to Scotland in 1924 with the Duke of Westminster; “The Invisible Accessory” which will instead cover the debut and success of Chanel N°5 perfume. In the end “A Timeless Allure” will be devoted to the designer’s latest collection.
Gabrielle Chanel. Fashion Manifesto aims to offer an unprecedented insight into the life and art of the Parisian designer, perhaps more linked to Great Britain than one might think. Therefore, on the one hand the V&A’s commitment to shedding light on such a as iconic and relevant as Coco Chanel appears in vain, on the other hand the need to once again explore the designer’s research denotes the vast creative imagination that Chanel has given and continues to give to fashion.

Marion Morehouse, Vogue May 01, New York, 1926.

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