Iconic Exhibition “Gabrielle Chanel. Fashion Manifesto” Opened In Palais Galliera In Paris

Let’s hope that borders will reopen soon, so that American compatriots can travel again in the city of lights and visit the most glamorous and epic exhibition of the year “Gabrielle Chanel. Fashion Manifesto” which opened on October 1 at the Palais Galliera, the City of Paris Fashion Museum after a two-year extensive renovation. A new space “Gabrielle Chanel Galleries” has been created for exhibitions in the museum basement that is doubling the surface of the museum. Now, the 7,500-square-foot space will showcase the history of fashion from the 18th century to the present, including  approximately 200,000 objects. The largest and most extraordinary collection of fashion in the world. 

Magically orchestrated by the support of CHANEL and Miren Arzalluz, Director of the Palais Galliera, Véronique Belloir, Collection Curator, Olivier Saillard, Fashion Historian, the exhibition “Gabrielle Chanel. Fashion Manifesto,” focuses on Gabrielle Chanel’s work. An analysis of her career, the emergence and the development of her style, the characteristics of her work and her codes and of course her contribution to the history of fashion. An invitation to discover a universe and a style that are truly timeless, a new elegance based on freedom, movement, a natural and relaxed attitude always without extravagance. Gabrielle Chanel (August 19, 1883-January 10, 1971) is one of the most influential fashion designers of the 20th century. From her chaotic childhood-which probably marked her forever- until her death, Gabrielle Chanel -a strong and determined woman- acutely understood the different periods she was living through. During her entire lifetime she always tried to adapt her owns needs and desires and dedicate them to her fashion empire.

The first ever retrospective of the designer’s work in Paris offers more than 350 pieces from the Palais Galliera Collections and Patrimoine de CHANEL, from international museums, like the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, the De Young Museum in San Francisco, the Museo de la Moda in Santiago de Chile, the MoMu in Antwerp, and of course from private collections. Covering an area of nearly 1500 square meters, the exhibition is an ode to Gabrielle Chanel’s Style. Always the first to wear what she designed, her choices reflected her own taste.

The exhibition is divided into two parts, chronologically and thematically. The first part on the ground floor of the museum focuses on her early beginnings in the 1910s when at that time, Paul Poiret dominated the world of women’s fashion. Gabrielle Chanel opened a boutique in Deauville in 1912 and Biarritz in 1915 and got inspired by the spirit of freedom that characterized the aristocracy of these seaside French towns. She revolutionized the Haute Couture with emblematic pieces like the 1916 ivory marinière, the sailor blouse, in silk jersey. Chanel conquered the US market with her elegant hats- originals and replicas. In the 1920s, actress Ina Claire contributed to launch Gabrielle Chanel’s career in America. She was a modern woman with a combination of youthfulness and sophistication. In Grounds for Divorces, a play produced by Henry Miller in 1924, all Ina’s Chanel outfits were described as the most elegant attire of the season. In 1964, Gabrielle Chanel was omnipresent in the US on every level of the American fashion industry from the young to the older women. 

From the little black dresses, the sporty gowns of the Roaring Twenties to the sophisticated attire of the 1930s, the exhibition also recounts the prominence of the exotic and wild artificial flowers in her work: cut, printed or woven in the patterns without forgetting her most iconic and beloved flower, the Camelia which symbolizes longevity, desire, perfection and love. 

One room is dedicated entirely to N°5 created in 1921 by master perfumer Ernest Beaux who selected more than eighty components for it. Gabrielle Chanel wanted a mysterious and abstract perfume which did not exist in nature with no specific scent. She wanted an artificial perfume created like a dress. Chanel N°5 will be immediately recognizable by its scent amplified by an accidental overdose of aldehydes. Coco wanted to create a perfume for women who assume their feminity and freedom. Like the scent, its container and presentation were totally innovative. Already in 1924, she launched a make up line with lipstick, some perfumed with N°5. In 1932, Gabrielle Chanel presented her Chanel Summer Collection which included three products related to tan: powder, tan and oil liquid. A revolution for a modern woman. In November and December 1937, photographer François Kollar shot her in her apartment at the Ritz for an advertisement of N°5 published in Harpers Bazaar. In 1960, Marilyn Monroe told Georges Belmont, a journalist for Marie Claire that the only thing she wore in bed was  Chanel N°5, which made the perfume, already the world’s best-selling perfume, a legend forever. 

The second part of the exhibition on the basement is themed. The Coco Chanel dress code is analyzed: the braided tweed suit, the costume, black and beige colors, but also red, white and gold, the accessories, and the fine jewelry. 

In 1954, Gabrielle Chanel was in her seventies and in an era when the New Look (the corseted style) prevailed, she took position against this trend. The extreme simplicity of her tailleur is the perfect example of what made her so unique and so successful. The Chanel Tailleur was a manifesto in itself of her vision of the modern woman. A perfect balance of the silhouette and anatomy of women combined to elegance and simplicity. The precision and refinement of the finish are essential and became a signature. The Chanel jacket is more than a reference in women’s fashion today. 

In February 1955 for her comeback as the fashion house was closed from 1939 to 1954- the only things still sold in Paris were perfumes and accessories- she created the 2.55 bag, the first ever quilted bag recognizable by its shape, its flap and its twist lock clasp. The 2.55 is designed to be practical. Its shoulder strap is a jewelry chain or a chain threaded with leather to prevent the metal clinking which became an emblematic feature allowing  the bag to be carried in the hand or slung over the shoulder. Inside numerous pockets to help find the contents, including a dedicated lipstick compartment. A mark of Genius. Chanel thought accessories as an essential element of a harmonious silhouette. In 1957, she added the emblematic two-tone pumps to the Chanel wardrobe bringing an extra note of elegance to her style. The model was finally made by shoemaker Raymond Massaro. Without forgetting the jewelry which had always been essential in Gabrielle Chanel’s designs since the beginning. A counterpoint to the simplicity of her clothes, her jewels became a hallmark of her style. An accumulation of rows of beads, pearls, long necklaces, short chokers, earrings, brooches and bracelets, Gabrielle Chanel positioned a jewel wherever she wanted. The designs were always created in close collaboration with the jewelers Étienne de Beaumont, Fulco di Verdura, Jean Hugo, Gripoix and Robert Goossens based on her own symbols, the lion, the ear of wheat, the star, the sun, or the cross. Whereas her jewelry marked opulence and profusion, her clothes were in complete opposition. 

Along the whole exhibition, ten iconic photo portraits and two short movies of Gabrielle Chanel go along with the ten chapters of the exhibition.With sometimes tears in the eyes or sometimes a smile on the face, this historic exhibition takes you inside the professional world of Gabrielle Chanel and shows how, at the beginning of the century, a strong woman made herself a genius to incarnate her extraordinary brand.

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