Charlotte Cardin On The New Chanel Exhibition at Paris Galliera

Photograph by Virgile Guinard for Chanel

Liberation of women through fashion innovation.

On September 30, I was invited to the opening of the remarkable Gabrielle Chanel, Fashion manifesto exhibition at the Palais Galliera in Paris. The exhibition, presented primarily in chronological order, took me on a journey through decades of empowering women characterized by Chanel’s creative revolutions.

Discover some of the highlights of the exhibition below:

Ode to the material, not to the ornament

Seeing hundreds of vintage pieces which all represented how Gabrielle Chanel broke existing fashion codes and reinvented women’s fashion with a focus on practicality, elegance and comfort was my highlight of the exhibition. In a time when it was all about flamboyant colors, uncomfortable corsets and obnoxious embellishments, Chanel had better ambitions for women’s fashion. Throughout her life (and evident throughout the show), Coco Chanel has favored quality materials and elegant simplicity, rather than adding unnecessary adornment. Her pieces were made with soft materials, allowing the modern woman to be comfortable and sophisticated in her busy daily life. I was fascinated by the many pieces in tweed (resistant, comfortable and borrowed directly from men’s fashion by Chanel), the fringed dresses (practical for travel, because they never wrinkle in your suitcase), and the creations versatile and tasteful (like its silk bolero). top that can be transformed into a scarf, again emphasizing movement and practicality). Chanel apparently asked her clients to fold their arms when measuring them for custom pieces, as she wanted the measurements to allow her clients to move freely in her designs.

Pockets and independence

charlotte cardin chanel
© Laurent Vu / SIPA

One of the first patrimony pieces in the exhibition is an ivory printed surah robe from the early 1930s. Stylish and casual, its main advantage is the presence of two medium-sized pockets on the hips. Something that we modern women can take for granted was revolutionary back then; a small detail like a pocket was an assertion that women could, and would carry, their own money, without needing their husbands’ approval, to spend it where they wanted.

Lucky N ° 5

Maybe it’s because five is also my lucky number, maybe because it reminds me of hugs from my grandmothers or maybe because it was created almost a century and still has one of the most modern signature scents – but I certainly have a soft spot for Chanel’s most famous perfume. Created in 1921, the iconic N ° 5 has an entire room dedicated to its history in the exhibition. In the middle of this room, the very first model of the perfume bottle is in a glass box. The art deco design of the bottle, minimal and elegant, has hardly changed since its creation. Combining floral, woody and spicy notes, Chanel has once again created new feminine codes; this time in a unique fragrance allowing women to add an androgynous touch to their look and define femininity with a whole new vocabulary.

To learn more about the Chanel exhibition, click here.

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