The Victoria and Albert Museum is hosting the first UK exhibition dedicated to Coco Chanel. Opening later this year, the showcase will explore “the evolution of her iconic design style and the establishment of the House of CHANEL, from the opening of her first millinery boutique in Paris to the showing of her final collection”
Following the success of Fashioning Masculinities: The Art of Menswear — the Victoria & Albert Museum show diving into the history of masculine sartorial self-expression — the London’s art and culture institution is back with yet another exhibition inspired by a fashion pioneer, French couturière Gabrielle ‘Coco’ Chanel.
Presented in partnership with Palais Galliera, Paris Fashion Museum, and Paris Musées, the major survey will be the first UK showcase to trace the decades-long career of mademoiselle Coco Chanel from the early days of her 1910 millinery boutique all the way to her final fashion show in 1971.
Drawing on more than 180 different looks especially curated for the occasion of the exhibition, the show will delve into the heritage of the French Maison by reviving the key moments that gave birth to Coco Chanel’s iconic design style and The House of CHANEL altogether. Along their way through the museum, visitors will be presented with garments as well as jewellery, accessories, cosmetics, and perfumes in what will be a thorough exploration of the designer’s rule-breaking approach to fashion. An ode to the inestimable legacy of Coco Chanel, the showcase wants to emphasise how her revolutionary vision lives on today through the designers she inspired and the generations that are yet to come.
“Gabrielle Chanel devoted her long life to creating, perfecting, and promoting a new kind of elegance based on freedom of movement, a natural and casual pose, a subtle elegance that shuns all extravagances, a timeless style for a new kind of woman,” said Miren Arzalluz, Director of the Palais Galliera, in a statement released ahead of the launch of the exhibition.
“That was her fashion manifesto, a legacy that has never gone out of style. Her success was based not only on the functionality, comfort, and chic elegance of her designs but also on her ability to grasp and interpret the needs and desires of the women of her time.” Based upon the previously-launched Palais Galliera’s Gabrielle Chanel. Fashion Manifesto exhibition, the retrospective will be readapted to the V&A’s audience through rarely seen pieces from the V&A’s collection and looks from Palais Galliera and the Patrimoine de CHANEL — the heritage collections of the fashion house in Paris. Among the highlights of the exhibition, we will find looks specifically designed for British model Anne Gunning (later Lady Nutting) and Hollywood stars Lauren Bacall and Marlene Dietrich.
Referring to Chanel as one of the most successful fashion houses in existence, Tristram Hunt, Director of the V&A, pointed out how much of the Maison’s prestige comes from the templates that were first laid down by its founder Coco Chanel over a century ago. “We are delighted to be partnering with Chanel and the Palais Galliera on this exhibition,” he said. “The show provides us with the opportunity to explore the origins and elements of this enduring style and to display little-known historic Chanel garments from the V&A collection.”
Visit the V&A’s website for more information on the show and other upcoming exhibitions.