Tuesday 6th October

| BY Jennifer Raymont

Ten’s to See: ‘Gabrielle Chanel: Fashion Manifesto’ at Palais Galliera

With Chanel‘s massive SS21 show coming up this morning, Musée de la Mode has given us the perfect opportunity to brush up on everything Chanel before the most anticipated collection of the fashion calendar. As the first retrospective in Paris of Gabrielle Coco Chanel’s life, from 1883 to 1971, the Gabrielle Chanel: Fashion Manifesto exhibition follows the designer’s career in fashion as she revolutionised the world of Haute Couture

Following World War 2,  Chanel reopened the house in 1954, and amidst the rise of Christian Dior’s ‘New Look‘, “Chanel developed her own distinctive, timeless style, which has stood firm against the ephemeral trends that typify the fashion world,” reads the press release. Seemingly an outsider to the fashion industry at the time, by rejecting fleeting trends and idealised femininity, Chanel experimented with fabrics, such as jersey and tweed. The designer created a suit that respected the female body, through comfort and freedom of movement, whilst also demonstrating an elegance free from excess or extravagance. Juxtaposing Dior’s cinched waist and full skirt, Chanel defined the female silhouette without exaggeration.

William Klein. Dorothy and Little Bara dressed as a priest. Published in Vogue Paris, October 1960 © William Klein

The iconic tailored suit provided women with the practicality of the male wardrobe to suit the needs of a modern, working woman. Despite the suit providing a foundation for Chanel’s fashion manifesto, it is not the only thing that creates the Chanel look. Two-tone pumps, the 2.55 quilted bag – all within, but not limited to –the beige, black colour palette, all contributed to Chanel’s creative vision for both her brand and customers. And for those of us who can only dream of sporting a tweed suit and black quilted bag, they’re all open for us to marvel over at Palais Galliera.

The exhibition comes in two parts in the newly renovated (and extended) museum, the first of which provides a chronological glimpse into the innovator of Haute Couture’s life, from the 1916 sailor blouses to the iconic Chanel little black dresses. Of particular interest is an entire room dedicated to the Chanel N° 5 Perfume first created in 1921. Once again the perfume, as with anything Chanel laid her hands on, challenged the fashion and beauty norms of the time by having several scent combinations rather than one specific fragrance.

Anne Sainte Marie in a Chanel suit. Published in Vogue UK, October 1955 Paris Musées © Henry Clarke

The clothes, accessories, shoes and jewellery – from the museum’s own collection, international collections, as well as private collections – are accompanied by ten portraits of Chanel herself, demonstrating the ways in which the designer personifies the iconic brand that largely dictates the world of fashion today. For the second half of the exhibition, “you are invited to decipher [Chanel’s] dress codes,” allowing visitors to immerse themselves in the world of Chanel and what essentially became the Chanel uniform.

Top image: Gabrielle Chanel and Suzy Parker, Paris, January 1959 © The Richard Avedon Foundation. ‘Gabrielle Chanel: Fashion Manifesto’ is open at Palais Galliera until March 14, 2021.


François Kollar. Model descending the staircase at 31 rue Cambon. Published in Harper’s Bazaar, September 15 , 1937 © Ministère de la Culture