I’ve spent a very happy hour at the Mademoiselle Prive Exhibition at the Saatchi Gallery on the King’s Road, London. You have to be prepared to lose yourself in the world of Chanel, beginning with a sequence of three gardens, each one symbolising something of importance to Mademoiselle Chanel. The exhibition is a complete take over of the gallery so everything’s been ‘Chanel-washed’ in black and white.
Inside, we begin with the staircase to Chanel’s apartment, a pile of sumptuous hat boxes and a series of white hats. As you move through the exhibition, there are tactile elements, stand out elements (such as the caged necklace, which reminded me a bit of the Kate Moss 3D piece from the Alexander McQueen at the V&A) and watch out for the dark elements – a bit too ‘can’t see a thing’ for my liking!
There’s almost too much to take in at one attempt, really, and when you get to one of the biggest rooms and realise that the jewels are the original 1932 designs worth literally millions of pounds, and they’re not behind glass, it’s really quite something. There is, in fact, a laser triggered security ‘line’ so because the clothes are within near touching distance, it goes off all the time. Needless to say, there are plenty of security guards. The Couture Room is filled with the most exquisite embroidered dresses I’ve ever seen. The dresses are all on stands with light running through the middle so you don’t miss a detail.
There’s a short film with a fictitious Coco Chanel played by Geraldine Chaplin in conversation with Karl Lagerfeld. It actually brought tears to my eyes even though it’s done with humour (they bicker through it all!) because imagine if. I wonder what she would make of it all now. In a strange twist of fate, I bumped into Geraldine Chaplin on the way out, and thanked her, still a bit emotional, for bringing Chanel to life (and believe me, I am not a celeb chaser!). The beginning of the film is set in her apartment which I’ve been to, and she picked up objects that I picked up when I was there. I don’t know.. it was just.. moving.
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What can I tell you? In many ways, it’s the kind of brand immersion that should only happen in a store, but Chanel, along with Dior and Louis Vuitton to name a couple, does have a history (it’s not all pretty) that can be brought to life so beautifully and to see the Haute Couture – beading, feathering, seams that would break your heart, it seems worthwhile.
I’ll tell you what’s strange, from a social media point of view, is that Chanel are ultra relaxed about photography, Tweeting, Periscoping – I have yet to go an event where there is no access to any of these things. And yet, with Dior, it’s an entirely different story; even their beauty collections are still subject to embargo, often with no photography, never mind anything more avant garde like Periscoping! Neither of these brands are affordable to most of us, and yet one makes itself open and available to aspiration, and the other doesn’t.
Bottom line for the Mademoiselle Prive Exhibition – if you’re a brand fan, go. It’s free, for a start, and there are a series of workshops (also free) on embroidery, featherwork and fragrance that you can book HERE.
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