Victoria & Albert Museum

‘Gabrielle Chanel. Fashion Manifesto’ at London’s V&A Will Span Coco Chanel’s Life and Career

‘Gabrielle Chanel. Fashion Manifesto’ at London’s V&A Will Span Coco Chanel’s Life and Career

LONDON — The work and life of Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel will be on display at the Victoria & Albert museum on Sept. 16, at the museum’s Sainsbury Gallery.
“Gabrielle Chanel. Fashion Manifesto” will be the first U.K. exhibition dedicated to the French fashion designer, charting six decades of her career, from the opening of her first millinery boutique in Paris in 1910 to her final show in 1971.

The showcase will be divided into 10 sections, starting with “Towards A New Elegance,” which will trace Chanel’s beginning in millinery and quick expansion into clothing.

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“The Emergence of a Style” will focus on her minimal design aesthetic, which transcended onto theater stage and silver screen; “The Invisible Accessory” looks at the debut of the house’s famous perfume No5 and the launch of makeup in 1924 and skin care in 1927; “Luxury and Line” introduces the house’s eveningwear and Bijoux de Diamants, Chanel’s first and only collection of fine jewelry commissioned by the International Diamond Corporation of London in 1932; “Closing House” details how the war affected her business and personal life, as well as her return to the fashion scene in 1954 and the relaunch of her couture line; “The Suit” highlights how the Chanel suit became synonymous with uniform dressing; “Chanel Codes” examines how the 2.55 handbag and two-tone slingback shoes have endured; “Into the Evening” spotlights Chanel’s couture garments and cocktail suits; “Costume Jewellery” touches on Chanel’s playfulness with jewelry and rejecting conventions of fine jewelry; and “A Timeless Allure” will visit Chanel’s final collection of spring 1971.

Lydia Sokolova, Anton Dolin, Bronislava Nijinska and Leon Woizikowsky after the first performance of “Le Train Bleu” in Britain, at the Coliseum Theatre London, 1924.

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Based upon an exhibition of the same name organized by the Palais Galliera in Paris in 2020, the exhibition will be reimagined for the V&A. It will feature rarely seen pieces from the London museum’s collection alongside looks from Palais Galliera and the Patrimoine de Chanel, the heritage collections of the fashion house in Paris.

“This is just really the precursor to the king’s state visits to Paris this weekend,” joked Tristram Hunt, director of the V&A at the exhibition’s further unveiling.

“This exhibition will analyze her contribution to fashion and her radical vision of a style that created modernity and reflected the aspirations of women and the evolution of their place in society,” said Bruno Pavlovsky, president of Chanel SAS and president of Chanel Fashion.

The V&A in London is set to stage a major Chanel exhibition in 2023.

Peter Kelleher

The exhibition features more than 200 looks — some seen for the first time, including costumes designed for the Ballets Russes production of “Le Train Bleu” in 1924; outfits created for Hollywood stars Lauren Bacall and Marlene Dietrich, and early examples of Chanel’s seminal take on evening trousers.

For the V&A, the Chanel exhibit follows major success of the “Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams” exhibition.

Tickets to “Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams,” which took place in 2019, sold out less than three weeks after opening, and welcomed nearly 600,000 visitors. The show’s run was extended from July until September of that year and was one of the most successful in the museum’s history.

“We knew that ‘Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams’ would be popular, but we have been overwhelmed by the phenomenal visitor response to date,” Hunt said in 2019.

The largest and most comprehensive British show on the House of Dior, it was a grand sweep of sparkle, rippling wool, sculpted jackets and floral prints and motifs. It threw light on the designer’s fascination with Britain, his “lines” and defining looks, and his international outlook and inspirations from history.

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