The Mademoiselle Privé exhibition at the Saatchi Gallery is a groundbreaking opportunity to totally immerse yourself in the life and work of Gabrielle Chanel in London. Two vast floors of the gallery have been transformed beyond recognition to take you on a journey through the intimate life of perhaps the most influential woman in the world of couture.
The name of the exhibition comes from the perfunctory black and white plaque nailed to the door of her private apartment above the 31 rue Cambon showroom and ateliers announcing in a dry serif upper-case typeface: ‘Mademoiselle’, underneath a smaller, lightly scripted single word: ‘Privé’. The new exhibition opens this door and takes us into her world of haute couture, the No 5 fragrance and, of course, diamond jewellery.
In the footsteps of Gabrielle Chanel, a day in the life of Mademoiselle begins with a stroll through gardens filled with birdsong. You will be hard pressed to recognise the gallery entrance, decorated to look like Gabrielle’s living room and lined with Coromandel deep-red Asian lacquer screens. This leads to an exact replica of the ground floor of the rue Cambon showroom, complete with its curved staircase where Mademoiselle would sit unseen on a top step and watch the reactions of her clients to each of her couture creations being modelled in the salon below. Every detail is perfect, right down to the sweeping iron balustrade, white orchids and gleaming white marble floor.
The exhibition delves into her earlier life entering Coco’s original Deauville hat shop, recreated using charming cartoons, and Gabrielle is brought to life by the voice of Geraldine Chapman. Her interest in jewels is clear: “Strings of pearls remain my personal favourite, “ says an animated black and white line drawing of the designer as she walks across to her dressing table, in a de rigueur natty tweed jacket. Plucking a strand of pearls from a bust, she continues: “I wear them with sweaters, day dress or evening robes.”
Past galleries draped with the iconic fabrics that define Chanel and a recreation of the manufacture of the No. 5 fragrance worthy of a trendy London art gallery is the heart of the show. Black mannequins clad in Karl Lagerfeld couture gowns created for the exhibition shimmer with new high jewellery interpretations of the Chanel 1932 Bijoux de Diamants collection, the only diamond jewels that Gabrielle Chanel created in her lifetime. The pairing of high jewellery with haute couture is a captivating combination and one to be taken in slowly. So carefully designed by Gabrielle Chanel to be wearable, this is just how these jewels should be seen, and it is a treat not to be missed.
Like everything the famous couture house creates, the Chanel London exhibition is perfectly polished, with a delightful sense of confidence. So don’t miss the chance to walk through the scented air of the magical world of Chanel.
Duke Of York's HQ
London SW3 4RY
13 October - 1 November 2015
Opening hours: 10am-6pm, 7 days a week (Wednesday until 10pm)