Gabrielle Chanel at the V&A

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Category Columnists, Culture, Lifestyle, People
Date September 28 2023
Reading Time 2 min.

Gabrielle Chanel at the V&A

The much anticipated Gabrielle Chanel. Fashion Manifestoexhibition has finally opened at the V&A museum. The show is dedicated to the life and work of the great French couturière, who transformed the world of women’s fashion forever.

The exhibition charts the evolution of Coco Chanel
s designs from the opening of her first millinery boutique in Paris in 1910 to the showcase of her last collection in 1971. Such format of a fashion exhibition is not new for the V&A, but it is certainly the first time curators of the museum has tried to capture the story of the pioneering designer besides exhibiting her extraordinary pieces.

Split into ten themed sections, the show explores various stages of Chanels life as well as her changing approach to fabric, construction and silhouette. Made in collaboration with the House of Chanel and various owners of archive Chanel pieces, the exhibition features more than 200 looks by the couturière. It is the first time all these items are exhibited together, making this moment even more special for the lovers of the designers work.

The featured pieces include the famous little black dress, the 2.55 handbag, the tweed suit (featured among dozens of its much-loved variations) and Chanels debut perfume N°5. Besides this there are outfits worn by the Hollywood stars like Lauren Bacall and Marlene Dietrich and a section dedicated to Chanels costume designs for Sergei Diaghilevs ballet and a series of Hollywood productions.

The most unusual side of the exhibition is an in-depth attention to Gabrielle Chanels life outside of her work. The couturière has always been a controversial figure in the world of fashion and in the eyes of people unrelated to it. Starting as a poor girl from a small French town and learning to sew from her aunt, Chanel has managed to become the most known designer of her time, an established businesswoman, a supposed spy and a lover of many famous and affluent men, which included the Duke of Westminster.

She had a questionable relationship with the Nazi officer Hans Günther Von Dincklage, which made her a suspect of being a Nazi informant and later turned into a court case that resulted in her exile to Switzerland. This V&A exhibition doesnt shy away from these facts regarding the designers life, neither it excuses them. Instead it provides an insight into the life of Coco Chanel with the straightforwardness that she herself has always manifested.

Gabrielle Chanel. Fashion Manifesto is a fascinating collection of pieces of Chanels life, brought together by the V&A with a fashionably tender approach to the designers persona and what she has left behind.

The exhibition will run until Sunday 25th February 2024 and all the tickets are available via the V&A website.