To state the obvious, this is going to be major for Chanelophiles and anyone who has even the faintest interest in fashion history. This is the woman who reshaped what it was like to get dressed in the early 20th century through her ground-breaking silhouettes that prioritised freedom over tradition. Her Chanel 2.55 – the most famous bag by the house even to this day – was the first mainstream shoulder bag, and loaded with practical details, from a middle compartment intended for storing lipsticks to a discreet zip-lined inner made to conceal love letters. Even the chain strap was inspired by the tiny weights Chanel used to give her bouclé jackets an immaculate finish.
All these details, plus many more intricacies at the heart of Chanel, will be reflected in a 10-section showcase spanning the opening of Coco’s first Parisian boutique in 1910 to the presentation of her final Chanel collection in 1971. More than 200 looks will go on display in South Kensington alongside jewellery, accessories, cosmetics and perfumes, from one of the earliest surviving Chanel designs from 1916 to costumes for the Ballet Russes’ 1924 production of Le Train Bleu and pieces worn by Hollywood legends Lauren Bacall and Marlene Dietrich. Individual sections of the exhibition, meanwhile, will be dedicated to Chanel No 5 and its impact; the house’s closure during the Second World War; the timeless Chanel suit, with more than 50 examples on show; and a study of the brand’s pioneering costume jewellery. Coco Chanel’s love of British culture – as evidenced by her adoption of tweed – will also be explored in depth.
Stay tuned for information on Gabrielle Chanel. Fashion Manifesto, which will run from 16 September 2023 to 25 February 2024.