Did you know that every 30 seconds, somewhere in the world someone buys a bottle of Chanel no 5 perfume? Or, that no 5 was Gabrielle ‘Coco’ Chanel’s lucky number? These and other facts are part of the long awaited ‘The Chanel Legend‘ exhibition in the Gemeentemuseum of The Hague, opening today October 12, 2013. I was thrilled to be invited to a special preview a day before the official opening, and I’m still captivated by what I saw and learned about the most celebrated fashion designer in the world.
Chanel: The Legend is an exhibition by the Draiflessen collection. It tells and showcases the colourful life story of the legend and her fashion emporium. Born in 1883, Gabrielle ‘Coco’ Chanel had a turbulent life and is considered the epitome of ‘rags to riches’ and continues to inspire generations to come. She transformed the female wardrobe of the 20th century for ever. Her style is timeless chic, elegant, and wearable, and she wanted her design to be worn by dynamic modern women. Her classic designs are still considered as contemporary, and highly desirable by women of all walks of life. The exhibition is a curated selection of original Chanel designs from the 1920 and ’30s, suits from the 1960s and creations worn by celebrities like Marlene Dietrich, Romy Schneider, and Queen Paola from Belgium.
- Left: Gabrielle Chanel, autumn/winter 1959/60, Photografie: Christin Losta, Collection Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto, Canada, © Draiflessen Collection, Mettingen
- right: Chanel in evening dress, Gabrielle Chanel, autumn/Winter 1925/26, photografie: Christin Losta, Collection Martin Kamer, Zwitserland, © Draiflessen Collection, Mettingen
In addition to her clothing designs, the exhibition also presents accessories and costume jewelry. Beautiful photos, lists with facts and fables, and inspiring quotes by Chanel accompany the exquisite fashion pieces and stories about the legend. The limited Chanel handbags are much coveted items and therefore often copied, something Chanel took as a compliment and style statement by the imitator.
Chanel is the godmother of the little black dress. She inspired many designers and continues to do so. That’s why the exhibition arranged a room in honour of the little black dress, showcasing copies and designs complimenting her vision. You’ll see black dresses by C&A, Max Heymans, Yves Saint Laurent and Hussein Chalayan.
Watch my 15 seconds video of the Little Black Dress room:
A Chanel signitarue suit consists of a jacket, paired with a matching blouse and (wrap around) skirt. The jacket and skirt are usually made of wool tweet. Chanel drew her inspiration from the English countryside and sports. Her blouses were usually made of the same silk as the lining of the jacket. The Chanel jacket is like the jeans, a fashion icon of the 20th century. Chanel also believed that the female knees were least attractive. That’s why she always designed skirts just over the knees.
Of course the Chanel no 5 perfume couldn’t be left out of this exhibition. An original bottle of Chanel no 5. dating from 1921 draws visitors to the room to get a glimpse of how it all begun. The most wanted perfume in the world. (Chanel No5, bottle Ernest Beaux (parfum) / Gabrielle Chanel 1921: Christin Losta Collectie Musée International de la Parfumerie – Grasse, France)
Karl Lagerfeld for Chanel
The role of Karl Lagerfeld is also highlighted in the exhibition. Lagerfeld revived the Chanel fashion house in 1983 by combining the Chanel heritage with the contemporary zeitgeist. Respectful, stylish and with the spirit of his predecessor. Like Chanel said: ‘Fashion fades, only style remains the same”.
Although Chanel was an advocate of luxurious simplicity, she did create a few flamboyant creations with lots of gliz and glam. The dresses shown below were worn by Marlene Dietrich who enjoyed wearing glamourous dresses with shiny lurex thread in the 1960s.
The exhibition is accompanied by a lavishly illustrated catalogue featuring photography by Christin Losta. At the same time, the museum’s special children’s gallery will be the venue for an exhibition and fashion crafts- and play room related to a special published children’s book ‘Coco or the little black dress‘ by Annemarie van Haeringen. I will dedicate a separate blog post to this tomorrow.
The ‘Chanel Legend’ exhibition can be visited from October 12, 2013 – February 2, 2014 in the Gemeentemuseum The Hague. In spring 2014 the exhibition moves to the Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe in Hamburg, Germany.
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