Profiling the designer’s career from the opening of her first millinery boutique in 1910 to her final collection in 1971, the exhibition will look at how her own personal sense of style influenced her designs, and in turn, changed the way that women dressed forever. While it was the era of the corset and the full skirt, as exemplified by Christian Dior’s New Look, Chanel instead looked to menswear, and specifically the clothes worn by the British upper classes for their sporting weekends in the country. It was a world she knew well: she was in a relationship with English polo player, Boy Capel, for many years, while Hugh Grosvenor, the Duke of Westminster, famously pursued her (her double C logo is still seen on lamp posts in the borough of Westminster to this day). She incorporated many of these menswear flourishes into her work, using tweed and wool and popularising trousers and knitwear for women.
‘As one of the most successful fashion houses in existence, Chanel owes much to the templates first laid down by its founder Gabrielle Chanel, over a century ago,’ Director of the V&A, Tristram Hunt, said. ‘We are delighted to be partnering with Chanel and the Palais Galliera on this exhibition, which provides us with the opportunity to explore the origins and elements of this enduring style and to display little-known historic Chanel garments from the V&A collection.’
‘Gabrielle Chanel boldly redefined the modern women’s wardrobe,’ Bruno Pavlovsky, President of CHANEL’s Fashion said. ‘We are honoured and delighted that the V&A, such a world leading museum and great institution, will stage the first UK retrospective of her work. By showcasing her contribution to the history of fashion as well as the incredible relevance and permanence of the Chanel style, this exhibition will highlight one of the greatest visionaries of our time.’
The exhibition will run from 16 September 2023 – 25 February 2024