This week Chanel opened a free exhibition Mademoiselle Prive at the Saatchi Gallery that takes you on a journey through the origins and inspirations of the French fashion house. The exhibition is only open until November 1, but it is well worth going to see it, especially if you are a little of fashion history geek like me, as you get a little insight into the world of Gabrielle ‘Coco’ Chanel, from her love of Scotland to her first hat shop, and even a beautiful garden.
The exhibition also has an interactive element with a dedicated app that uses Bluetooth to showcase exclusive content from bringing Coco Chanel’s Parisian apartment to life to fashion quotes from the designer. It kind of adds a trippy edge to the labyrinth-style layout.
The exhibition spans over two floors and there is a lot to see, but the hoards of people might make it a little hard to enjoy at times. There are lots of highlights including the Willy Wonka-style Chanel No. 5 scent-filled room packed with bubbling vats, the sensory room where you can touch the couture fabrics that the fashion house constructions its creations, and there is a whole room dedicated to those beautiful garments.
You start your journey into the elegant world of Coco by wandering through a beautiful garden designed by Chelsea Flower Show gold medalists Harry and David Rich, taking inspiration from the designer’s trips to Scotland and using C-shaped walkways to represent the iconographic Chanel logo. It was also slightly surreal but also relaxing walking through to a chorus of bird songs.
Once inside you enter a recreation of Coco Chanel’s iconic Rue Cambon apartment, you can inside using the app, as well as also posing on the famous mirrored stairs, well that is if the other visitors aren’t just taking calls on it. Sadly there aren’t many ushers around the exhibition moving people on who are literally spoiling the experience for others which is a shame.
Then you enter a very white room dedicated to Chanel’s first hat shop, it seems a little plain until you see an animated Coco walking around the room. You then go on a trip down memory lane to Scotland, where the designer was inspired for her tweed jackets and skirt suits. The next room depends on your app working, which it didn’t for me, so all we saw was a drawn-on door, next you wander through a maze of fabric swatches from the Chanel atelier.
The largest room on the ground floor is dedicated to Chanel No. 5, where you are surrounded by bubbling cauldrons that open up at random intervals to reveal the ingredients of the perfume. To say this room smells beautiful is an understatement.
The strangest area had to be the Totem room, kind of an eccentric mix of artwork, including a giant Chanel brickwork bear featuring numbers all relevant to the house, which is explained with the help of the app. The most beautiful had to be the giant spinning birdcage housing an enlarged version of a star-covered diamond necklace created by Coco in 1932.
Upstairs is dedicated to fashion, there are dresses suspended from the ceiling on bright poles of light in the couture room, while the neighbouring room is dedicated to the Bijoux de Diamants High Jewellery collection as well as showcasing Chanel’s many muses with photography taken by current creative director Karl Lagerfeld. There really are so beautiful snaps Kristen Stewart, Lily Rose Depp, Vanessa Paradis and Julianne Moore.
The exhibition is open until November 1 and is free, plus there are so special workshops where you can learn more about craftsmanship with Lesage and Lemarié about how to embroider, work with feathers and create flowers, as well as discover the secrets of Chanel No. 5. However, there are limited spaces and I’ve tried all week with no luck.