Essence of an Icon

Com­ing to Hong Kong in 2016, a hot new Chanel ex­hi­bi­tion ex­plores the enig­matic spirit of the house’s founder, Coco. We chron­i­cle the Lon­don launch

Hong Kong Tatler - - Tater Focus -

Karl Lager­feld, ar­guably one of the best sto­ry­tellers in the fash­ion in­dus­try, never met Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel. How­ever, he has man­aged to bring her spirit to life in Made­moi­selle Privé, a mul­ti­sen­sory ex­hi­bi­tion he re­cently cu­rated at Lon­don’s Saatchi Gallery. The name of the show, which pays homage to all things Chanel, is taken from the sign Coco in­stalled at the door of her pri­vate sanc­tu­ary on the third floor of her Paris ate­lier— the same space in which Lager­feld now de­vel­ops his col­lec­tions for the Parisian brand as its head de­signer and cre­ative di­rec­tor.

Cel­e­brat­ing the ir­rev­er­ent spirit and in­no­va­tion of both Coco and Karl, the show be­gins with a stroll through a mod­ern English gar­den by land­scape artists Harry and David Rich. Then visi­tors wan­der into the gallery space and are

sur­rounded by Chi­nese coro­man­del screens— beau­ti­ful ob­jets dé­co­ratif that fea­tured promi­nently in Coco’s apart­ment, lo­cated at 31 Rue Cam­bon.

Sev­eral rooms on the ground floor have been fit­ted out to recre­ate lo­ca­tions highly sig­nif­i­cant to Coco, such as the mir­rored stair­case of her apart­ment and her first bou­tique in the sea­side town of Deauville, as well as el­e­ments that hark back to trips to Scot­land, Eng­land and Italy, places that in­flu­enced her creations.

An­other room pro­vides a sen­sory ex­pe­ri­ence in a min­i­mal­ist lab­o­ra­tory that dis­sects the com­po­nents of the house’s iconic Chanel No. 5 per­fume. Large con­tain­ers of the fra­grance’s in­di­vid­ual el­e­ments, in­clud­ing neroli, jas­mine and lily of the val­ley, open in suc­ces­sion to fill the gallery with ever-evolv­ing scents.

One floor up, Chanel’s most ex­quis­ite col­lec­tions glow in a room with jet-black interiors—a luxe re­dux of sorts. Lager­feld paired 16 spe­cially cre­ated haute cou­ture out­fits with re-edi­tions of Bi­joux de Dia­mants, a high jew­ellery col­lec­tion de­signed by Coco in 1932. On the walls hang Lager­feld-shot por­traits of am­bas­sadors, celebri­ties and friends of the brand—in­clud­ing Ju­lianne Moore, Kris­ten Ste­wart and Vanessa Par­adis—dressed in the same pieces shot at Coco’s apart­ment.

The sec­ond floor of the gallery hosts a se­ries of in­ter­ac­tive work­shops that cel­e­brate the crafts­man­ship and savoir faire of the houses of Lesage and Le­marié, al­low­ing guests to cre­ate and as­sem­ble their own de­signs with em­broi­dery, feather and flower work. The ex­hi­bi­tion fin­ishes with Jardin à la Française, an 18th-cen­tury gar­den in­spired by the in­ter­lock­ing Cs that have be­come one of the world’s most recog­nis­able fash­ion lo­gos.

While Made­moi­selle Privé touches on Chanel’s rich history and her­itage, its main fo­cus is on the brand ex­pe­ri­ence. “We felt we wanted, and needed, to say some­thing about what goes on be­hind the scenes [at Chanel],” says Bruno Pavlovsky, Chanel’s pres­i­dent. “We felt it was a good time for the brand to give away some se­crets.”

The ex­hi­bi­tion has just closed in Lon­don, but it will be trav­el­ling to Hong Kong in the first half of 2016.

FOL­LOW SUIT From top: Chanel No. 5 per­fume comes to life in a con­cep­tual, aro­matic ex­pe­ri­ence; Karl Lager­feld at the Made­moi­selle Privé ex­hi­bi­tion in Oc­to­ber

per­fectly poised From top: Lily-rose Depp poses for Karl Lager­feld in Chanel’s Rue Cam­bon apart­ment; Alice Del­lal and Ju­lianne Moore at the open­ing night of the ex­hi­bi­tion; haute cou­ture out­fits and por­traits on dis­play

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