Sara Darling headed to Le Hague to check out a new exhibition tracing the history of a true fashion icon, Coco Chanel.
Coco Chanel was a fashion icon in her own right.A glamourpuss of the first degree, she was rarely seen without a cigarette and string of pearls to her death in 1971. Since the conception of Chanel, it’s easy to wear separates, trademark tweed and the subtle interlocking C’s, have turned the brand into a globally recognised and respected fashion house, which has created timeless looks for generations.
The life and work of Gabrielle ‘Coco’ Chanel is widely seen as a fairytale, with a Hollywood movie made in honour of her life. Born to an unmarried mother in a workhouse, and growing up in an orphanage from the age of 6, she fell in love with fashion, and was determined to transform her life into the glamour and glitz she had only dreamt about.
Starting out as a hat designer, was not fabulous enough for Coco, and her foray into fashion grew rapidly into opening boutiques in all the right places, and by the time Coco was in her early twenties, Maison Chanel was established in Paris. Maybe it was a post war effect, which made women want to appear more feminine, but her predominantly straightforward twinsets were a huge success. Coco led the field of design in her personal life too, by her chopping off her long hair and wearing a short bob haircut -placing her at the cutting edge of modern style.
Her iconic collections from the 50s and 60s are as well recognised as she is herself. From her ‘little black dress’ immortalised on celluloid by Audrey Hepburn in ‘Breakfast at Tiffanys’, to her arguably most famous perfume No5- developed in 1922, along with the 2.55 quilted handbag, her creations (and the celebrities who wear them) are a groundbreaking formula- which have spawned endless copies, but nothing can match up to the real deal.
To celebrate the legend of the Chanel, Fashion House, the curators of the Gemeentemuseum in The Hague have executed a thorough history into the history of the brand. With 150 items chosen to represent Chanel Legends, with hero pieces arranged in a timeline, remembering another of Coco’s quotes “You can be gorgeous at thirty, charming at forty and irresistible for the rest of your life”, one can see how well things have aged, and note the classic cuts which are still reproduced today. Pioneering tweed, and raising awareness of the humble twin set, Coco Chanel was a designer who knew what she wanted. The collections were not designed to sell “sex appeal”, but by the lack of flesh on show and deliberate covering of knee and upper arms, stating, “nothing shows age like the tops of your arms. Cover them.” Each design provides a class and demureness.
With each room organised with a theme, the spectator is taken on a trip throughout the label’s history, complete with information boards, facts and fiction and designer quotes for a fuller understanding.
With much to dwell on, the final “photo shoot” room was my favourite, as one is offered the chance to wear our own Chanel jacket and pose for a photo before leaving the exhibition- hash- tagging this “Chanel for Everyone”.
Karl Lagerfeld is not forgotten. As the designer responsible for carrying the brand from the 1980s into the 21st century, he has added a new dimension to the collections, in use of sequins, costume chains and varied lengths of hem, but he has remained true to the ‘classy and fabulous’ philosophy and continues to create sleek and covetable – if only a little more exaggerated, clothes for women of all ages. Karl himself is the first to admit that Coco “invented something tremendous: the Chanel suit- the female version of the two button suit” which started a “fashion avalanche”. His vision of the Chanel legacy is to produce contemporary, beautiful and wearable fashion “When you buy Chanel, you are buying an idea, and this idea is now in a kind of collective memory”.
Which begs the question, how many items of clothing are recognisable without a label or logo? Kaiser Karl continues on the quest to make understated, luxurious and sophisticated fashion, which is still instantly recognisable as Chanel. His designs are an unconscious nod to the genius of Chanel, which has been ingrained into popular culture, since popular culture began! With or without the adjoined C’s, his collections are consistently timeless, and a selection can be appreciated at this exhibition until February 2014.
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Sara travelled to Le Hague by CityJet. CityJet offers up to 9 flights daily to Rotterdam from London City Airport. Fares start from as little as £99 return including all taxes and fees. For more information, reservations and to check-in online, visit www.cityjet.com or call reservations on 0871 66 33 777.
For further information on visiting Holland go to www.holland.com