Gabrielle Chanel “Fashion Manifesto” exhibition in London’s V&A South Kensington. Story by Eleonora de Gray, Editor-in-Chief of RUNWAY MAGAZINE. Photo Courtesy: CHANEL.
As a magazine editor with a passion for fashion and an appreciation for the artistry behind it, I am thrilled to share my thoughts on the much-anticipated exhibition, “Gabrielle Chanel: Fashion Manifesto,” which has recently graced the halls of London’s V&A South Kensington. This event marks the first UK exhibition dedicated to the incomparable Gabrielle ‘Coco’ Chanel, a visionary couturière whose influence continues to shape the world of fashion even today.
The journey through this exhibition begins with a captivating photograph of the young Coco Chanel outside one of her initial boutiques. At 29 years old, she may not yet exude the iconic chic for which she would become renowned. Her attire, a long skirt and a belted sweater, may seem unassuming, but her posture and determination are unmistakable. In that moment, under the Deauville sunshine, she displayed the unmistakable traits of a true force of nature.
This exhibition transcends mere fashion; it is, at its core, the story of a remarkable woman. Born into poverty in rural France and raised by convent nuns, Gabrielle Chanel would go on to redefine the modern woman’s wardrobe. While her tweed suits, little black dresses, and iconic perfume bottles are certainly noteworthy, they play supporting roles in comparison to the undeniable prominence of Chanel herself.
What sets “Gabrielle Chanel: Fashion Manifesto” apart from many fashion exhibitions is its contemporary relevance. Often, such exhibitions can become overly focused on ornate details and historical reverence, but this one radiates modernity. Each meticulously curated piece, particularly the collection of little black dresses, remains timeless and would seamlessly complement any modern woman’s wardrobe.
The subterranean Sainsbury Gallery serves as a fitting backdrop for an exhibition that pays homage to modernist chic. Here, elegant gunmetal grey mannequins stand as though guests at an exquisite cocktail party. Gabrielle Chanel, whose aesthetic innovation from 140 years ago still feels contemporary today, rightfully takes center stage.
One of the exhibition’s revelations is the secret behind Chanel’s iconic suits – the gilt chain discreetly sewn into the hem of the jacket. This subtle detail provides structural support to the soft tweed silhouette, ensuring that the fabric drapes evenly around the body.
In conclusion, “Gabrielle Chanel: Fashion Manifesto” at V&A South Kensington is not just an exhibition; it’s a celebration of a trailblazing woman whose influence on fashion remains unparalleled. It’s a testament to Gabrielle Chanel’s enduring legacy and her role as a pioneer in shaping modern women’s fashion. This exhibition invites us to appreciate the genius behind the little black dress and the timeless elegance of Chanel’s designs, leaving visitors inspired by her story and style.