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Exhibition: The Chic Geek Visits the V&A Museum’s Gabrielle Chanel. Fashion Manifesto

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Don’t go for the clothes – they are pretty, but a reminder that Chanel doesn’t have any definitive iconic items like say a YSL Mondrian dress or a Le Smoking – go for the birth and foundation of a megabrand. The exhibition encapsulates the power and commercial importance of perfume and something everybody from a queen – there’s a letter from Queen Elizabeth II thanking for a gifted bottle of No.5 – downwards can buy.

One of the most interesting takeaways is the revelation that the Chanel No.5 bottle was based on the Place Vendôme in Paris.

The Wertheimer family, who still own Chanel, were Coco’s original perfume partners and helped her relaunch couture in the 1950s and the subsequent brand we know today. They understood the importance of clothes and fashion to keep a perfume’s allure – no pun intended! – and it’s still the same today with Tom Ford, Jean Paul Gaultier and Mugler doing the same.

A woman who got into bed with the Nazis, literally, and by 1943, clearly seeing that the war was shifting in favour of the allies, decide to switch sides, she was nothing but industrious, especially when it came to her private life.

She’s quite an enigma, even looking different in her photos. She must have been charming to keep these rich men entranced and invested.

The exhibition is slick. It’s not as exciting at Dior’s Designer of Dreams, but the brand is more classic and this is reflected in the staging. It runs up until her death in 1971, so the interlocking Cs are yet to appear.

The famous mirrored Rue Cambon staircase is here, the LBDs and tweed suits too, and the background music adds a rarefied and retail experience. It is definitely worth a visit but you probably won’t be wowed, but it will keep the Chanel-holics who would sell their grandmother for an original 2.55 bag – featured below – happy.

Until 25th February 2024

See what the final look in the Chanel show – bottom – tells about the changing attitude to vintage fashion – here

The only piece of menswear in the show. Costumes designed for Chanel for Le Train Blue

Chanel, Exhibition, LBD