‘Gabrielle Chanel – Fashion Manifesto’ Showcases Her Iconic Career

The first Parisian retrospective dedicated to Gabrielle Chanel in Paris, the ‘Gabrielle Chanel. Fashion Manifesto’ exhibition highlights the development of her style, the characteristics of her work, the emergence of her codes, and her contribution to the history of fashion

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This picture shows creations by French designer Gabrielle Chanel displayed during the exhibition “Gabrielle Chanel, fashion manifesto” at the Galliera Palais fashion museum in Paris on September 25, 2020. (Image: Stephane De Sakutin/AFP)

The Palais Galliera, the City of Paris Fashion Museum, reopens its doors after extension work and presents the first retrospective in Paris of a unique and remarkable fashion designer: Gabrielle Chanel (1883-1971).

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Coco Chanel in her apartment at The Ritz for Harper’s Bazaar in November 1937

At a time when Paul Poiret dominated the world of women’s fashion, Gabrielle Chanel went to Deauville in 1912, then to Biarritz and Paris, and revolutionised the world of Haute Couture, adorning the bodies of her contemporaries with what amounted to a fashion manifesto.

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{Left} Dress, autumn-winter 1964-1965 Paris, Palais Galliera / {Right} Dress, spring-summer 1959 Patrimoine de CHANEL, Paris © Julien T. Hamon
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The epitome of Chanel elegance (Image: Olivier Saillant)

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The first part of the exhibition is chronological; it recounts her early beginnings with a few emblematic pieces, including the famous 1916 marinière, the sailor blouse, in jersey. You are invited to trace the development of Chanel’s chic style: from the little black dresses and sporty models of the Roaring Twenties to the sophisticated dresses of the 1930s. One room is devoted entirely to N° 5, created in 1921 and quintessentially the spirit of “Coco Chanel”.

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Gabrielle Chanel, Fashion Manifesto, The Suit in Detail (Image: Olivier Saillant)
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Creations of French designer Gabrielle Chanel are displayed during the exhibition “Gabrielle Chanel, fashion manifesto” at the Galliera Palais fashion museum in Paris, France, September 25, 2020. REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes

Ten photo portraits of Gabrielle Chanel accompany the ten chapters of the exhibition and show the extent to which the couturière herself was the embodiment of her brand. Then came to the war and the fashion house was closed; the only things still sold in Paris, at 31 rue Cambon, were perfume and accessories. Then the arrival of Christian Dior and the New Look – the corseted style that she so objected to; Gabrielle Chanel reacted by returning to couture in 1954 and, against the trend, reaffirmed her fashion manifesto.

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'Gabrielle Chanel - Fashion Manifesto' Exhibition A New Kind Of Elegance chanel ‘Gabrielle Chanel – Fashion Manifesto’ Showcases Her Iconic Career Gabrielle Chanel Fashion Manifesto Exhibition A New Kind Of Elegance 2 1

The second part of the exhibition is themed and you are invited to decipher her dress codes: the braided tweed suit, two-tone pumps, the 2.55 quilted bag, black and beige naturally, but also red, white and gold… and, of course, the costume and the fine jewellery that were intrinsic to the Chanel look.

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'Gabrielle Chanel - Fashion Manifesto' Exhibition A New Kind Of Elegance chanel ‘Gabrielle Chanel – Fashion Manifesto’ Showcases Her Iconic Career Gabrielle Chanel Fashion Manifesto Exhibition A New Kind Of Elegance 4

Gabrielle Chanel. Fashion Manifesto, covers an area of nearly 1500 m2 – including the newly opened basement galleries. With more than 350 pieces from the Palais Galliera collections and Patrimoine de CHANEL, from international museums, including 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…, as well as from private collections, this exhibition is an invitation to discover a universe and a style that are truly timeless. 

Gabrielle Chanel. Fashion Manifesto runs until March 14.

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