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a word on art

Gabrielle Chanel. Fashion Manifesto

The Victoria and Albert Museum in Kensington is currently home to the first UK exhibition dedicated to the work of French couturière, Gabrielle 'Coco' Chanel, charting the establishment of the House of CHANEL and the evolution of her iconic design style which continues to influence the way women dress today. The exhibition premiered in Paris in 2020 and will also be displayed in Tokyo and Melbourne once it has left London.

This highly anticipated exhibition promised to display some of the most iconic and beautiful designs of Coco Chanel, I was so excited to see such a huge collection of her designs all in one place. I visited the wonderful V&A Dior exhibition in 2019 and loved every minute of it, I knew the V&A would deliver yet another fantastic exhibition, and they did not disappoint.

The exhibition starts in a small room with a timeline of Chanel’s life and notable accomplishments written on the walls before leading you into another room in which the walls on either side are glass cases containing some of her beautiful designs. Each room was not only displayed beautifully, but it was perfectly on the theme of Chanel’s love of simplicity and style, I loved the high level of attention to detail.

One of the various rooms that interested me the most contained beautifully displayed cosmetics from Chanel, ranging from their first release to modern-day cosmetics that you could buy for yourself. I was struck by how iconic her designs were, very few containers for lipsticks, perfumes, etc had changed; illustrating just how timeless and practical Chanel’s designs were. I loved how Chanel described perfume as “the invisible accessory”, illustrating the importance that a fragrance has to complete an outfit. Gabrielle Chanel's debut perfume, N°5, was launched in 1921 and went on to become the world's best-selling fragrance. N°5 was a distinct and incredibly novel fragrance and it became the signature scent of Chanel's fashion house.

Another of my favourite rooms contained a large variety of Chanel’s iconic suits. The suits were displayed in a stunning double-decker glass case that ran alongside the entirety of the walls in a large room. The suit display started with the darker colours, leading into the fantastic bright pinks and oranges. The whole room was so well designed, I kept walking up and down to appreciate each beautiful suit and the fantastic level of detail.

The jewellery room had me mesmerised as soon as I walked through the doorway. Each set of display cases contained a fantastic selection of beautiful necklaces, earrings, bracelets and more. Each piece was beautifully made with wonderful intricate details. Each piece was dazzling and sparked beautifully in the lighting.

The final room was a magnificent staircase with a huge mirror built alongside it. On the staircase were beautifully dressed mannequins in stunning ballgowns, they looked as though they were descending the stairs at a beautiful ball. Alongside the other walls were more beautiful dresses, each gown was a masterpiece. This room is by far my favourite, the design of the room reflected Chanel’s love of simplicity, which allowed each of these wonderful dresses to be the main event.

I thoroughly enjoyed the exhibition, and would highly recommend visiting it before it ends on the 25th February 2024.


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