THE LITTLE JACKET THAT COULD
An homage to one of Gabrielle Chanel’s most timeless creations
Alittle dress cut forgivingly straight with no corseting, a smart tweed suit, elegant ropes of pearls, the colour black –things so brilliant in their simplicity that we sometimes forget what a woman now counts as her fail-proof fashion fallbacks were revolutionary when Coco Chanel introduced them to a froufrou French society some 80 years ago.
Mademoiselle Chanel contributed a great deal to the modern fashion lexicon. Next to the little black dress – she would probably have to share credit with Hubert de Givenchy and Audrey Hepburn for making this a worldwide smash – the little black jacket is probably her greatest legacy. Created as a reaction against the stiff, restrictive way women dressed in the ’50s, Chanel wanted a piece that was minimal, fuss-free, and most importantly, allowed the wearer to move comfortably. The little black jacket summed up her design philosophy – clothes meant to be lived in, that could be worn everywhere and at all hours of the day.
Since his appointment in 1983, Karl Lagerfeld has been paying tribute to the Chanel jacket every season in some way or another. Whether paired with blue jeans or chic, tiny maillots; blown-up or shrunken-down, it has always been there on the runway. Sometimes even literally, as was the case during the Spring/Sumer ’08 Haute Couture show when a 20-metre sculpture of the jacket was the catwalk centrepiece, or more recently in October, when it was part of the objets on display at the Chanel “art gallery/runway”.
In 2012, Chanel decided to celebrate the iconic garment in a much bigger and tangible way, and thus The Little Black Jacket: Chanel’s Classic Revisited was born. With Lagerfeld behind the lens and BAZAAR’s global fashion director Carine Roitfeld in charge of styling duties, they amassed over 100 celebrities and personalities from all over the globe to put their own spin on the jacket.
For a while, the tweed jacket – and the Chanel brand in general, to be honest – was seen in a particular light. The women who wear Chanel are wealthy, definitely, almost always beautiful, and nothing if not chic. But one wouldn’t associate the Chanel woman with cool; the way a Marni, Prada, or Proenza girl could be called cool. With this project, Lagerfeld – who just turned 80 – is beating the young ones at their game and showing that not only is the jacket cool, it is also fresh, youthful, and the ultimate expression of personal style.
Every personality shot for the book had a different style, and yet, the jacket worked for them. Cool French girls Elisa Sednaoui and Vanessa Paradis showed what effortless chic looked like with the jacket slipped
over their vintage lace dresses and frothy tutu skirts. London girls full of attitude such as Alice Dellal punked up the jacket with leather and studs while Georgia May Jagger seduced in a black bra top. Hollywood stars young and old put their spin on it; Elle Fanning looked virginal with a daisy headband while Sarah Jessica Parker reasserted her status as fashion queen with a majestic crown. The boys got in on the action, too; Haider Ackermann wore it with his trademark scarves and Kanye West even busted out a rare smile in front of Lagerfeld’s camera in his leather jeans and necklaces.
Now, a second edition of the book has been published with 21 new images. New jackets were commissioned, which were then shot on fresh faces, many of them from Asia – particularly China, where Chanel, like many other luxury brands, is focusing much of its marketing muscle now. Fashion’s hottest names of the moment all made an appearance. Xiao Wen Ju channelled an Oriental Marilyn Monroe while Sui He and Fei Fei Sun looked resplendent in ancient Chinese headdress. The rest of the new additions are made up of global pop princesses like Rita Ora and movie stars like Keira Knightley, who as the face of Chanel is special enough to warrant the little tweed jacket in white.
Debuting in Tokyo in April 2012, the exhibition then made its way to New York, Milan, Paris, Sydney, and Shanghai. Now, it is making its final pit stop at the ArtScience Museum in Singapore, the only Southeast Asian destination on the tour. To fête its arrival and the final leg of the exhibition, the house pulled out all the stops to throw one of the biggest parties Singapore has seen this year. International top models the likes of Karolina Kurkova, Xiao Wen Ju, and Soo Joo Park were flown in as well as actresses Alma Jodorowsky from France and Korea’s Song Hye Kyo, who mingled with VVIP guests in beautiful head-to-toe Chanel.
Champagne flowed and the party went on and on. In an age where trends come and go at the speed of light, it’s a joy to celebrate the timelessness of a classic you know you can pull out of the closet whatever the season, shrug over any outfit, and walk out confident. A line from a Roberto Juarroz poem which opens the book says it best: “There are clothes which keep rejuvenating themselves instead of getting worn out.” He might as well have written it about the little black Chanel jacket. The book ‘The Little Black Jacket: Chanel’s Classic Revisited by Karl Lagerfeld and Carine Roitfeld’ is out now. The exhibition runs until January 1 at the ArtScience Museum, Marina Bay Sands, Singapore. thelittleblackjacket.chanel.com
Ju Xiao Wen
‘The Little Black Jacket’ exhibition at Singapore’s ArtScience Museum
Song Hye Kyo