First look at Gabrielle Chanel Fashion Manifesto at the V&A
Why fashion fans will adore this fabulous exhibition
I’m sending this newsletter out early this week, so you can get a first look at this fabulous new exhibition.
It’s not often you get to appreciate a designer’s entire body of work and even rarer to enjoy such a magnificent retrospective as Gabrielle Chanel Fashion Manifesto. The new fashion exhibition at the V&A opens to the public this weekend and I was lucky to get a press preview earlier in the week.
I’ve been looking forward to this exhibition all year and it didn’t disappoint. For anyone who has seen previous Dior shows, it’s on the same scale – it’s a comprehensive look at Coco Chanel’s career, from her earliest work with jersey in the 1910s, right through to her final collection of Spring/Summer 1971.
Based on the Paris exhibition by the Palais Galliera Fashion Museum, this version includes hundreds of new items from the V&A’s archives, the Palais Galliera and heritage collections from Chanel. It opens with one of the earliest surviving pieces – a silk jersey shirt from 1916 and is broken into 10 sections, including perfume, make-up and accessories.
It’s beautifully-curated and true to Chanel’s elegance and simplicity. I loved the Luxury and Line room, with its gorgeous eveningwear, and A Timeless Allure, which is the exhibition’s finale. It also centres on evening dress and has frocks displayed down a recreation of the famous mirrored staircase in the designer’s Parisian atelier in Rue Cambon.
But the room which makes you gasp is The Suit, with more than 50 suits ranged like a colour chart along two levels of a curved space. It’s stunning and shows you just how iconic her suit was, as you’d wear any of them today.
Chanel’s vision for a new aesthetic was revolutionary for the day. She designed for herself, for a modern woman who wanted femininity with comfort and style, from the LBD to suit, handbag to shoes.
The exhibition doesn’t shy away from the whole story, either. It tackles Chanel’s war-time period, when she closed the fashion house, in a clear and concise way.
It’s an absolute must for fashion-fans. Exhibitions like this don’t come around very often and it’s a wonderful way to spend an afternoon. It also makes you reflect – some 100 years since Chanel began designing, her vision is as relevant today as it was then. Everyone dreams of leaving a legacy, she did just that.
The Travel List
Gabrielle Chanel Fashion Manifesto, runs until February. It is already sold out until December, but members can enjoy unlimited entry, so it’s worth joining if you want to see this. Visit vam.ac.uk
Thanks for reading The British Travel List! Subscribe for free to receive new posts and support my work.