August 18th, 2014Par Françoise-Claire Prodhon
1913: The Normandy coast with its expansive gray-blue skies and beaches still resembled the representations depicted by Eugène Boudin and the Impressionists at the turn of the 19th century... There was no swimming, or very little at most... Visitors splashed about or baited for shrimp, and the more elegant among them were seated under their parasols or withdrew into their canvas sun tents, wearing the same restrictive outfits on the sand as they wore in town. All of them were still unaware that a revolution was underway...
1913 was the year when Coco Chanel chose to open her first fashion boutique on rue Gontaut-Biron in Deauville.
This young woman, who successfully opened her first hat store in 1910 called "Chanel Modes" located at 21 rue Cambon in Paris, had established a formidable reputation and had already won over the most elite socialites of the time. However, it was in Deauville where she was the first to invent a sporty sense of style that reflected a changing society, a style that would forever alter the course of women's history.
Here at this chic resort destination she sold her wide-brimmed hats that were simply decorated with a single feather or ribbon. Yet most importantly, she offered wealthy clients open-air apparel that she displayed along Deauville’s famous boardwalk. The selection notably included the fisherman-inspired striped jersey sweater: yet again, she was able to reinvent a masculine garment and transform a classic work wear item into something comfortable for women who were ever so ready to be liberated from the heavy, corseted silhouette imposed by the “Belle Epoque.” Other outfits followed that embodied casual chic and successfully put everything else out of fashion: striped shirts, sailor pants, and beach pajamas that she accessorized with pearls and camellias loosely stitched to the belt or collar lapel. In Deauville, Gabrielle's boldness paired with the elegance of Adrienne (her young aunt) and her sister Antoinette (both dressed by Chanel) was as surprising as it was seductive. Gabrielle Chanel breathed new life and fresh air into fashion, fully embracing the spirit of the times, which the Avant-gardists were also doing at the same time in other creative fields such as painting, sculpture, literature, poetry, and music.
Françoise Claire Prodhon
August 6th, 2014Par Françoise-Claire Prodhon
The relationship between Gabrielle Chanel and the Basque coast dates back to 1915. It was Arthur “Boy” Capel who introduced her to Biarritz while on leave from his military duties. The war that raged on relentlessly seemed far off while at this famous seaside resort: many wealthy women had fled Paris to seek refuge there and spent quiet, peaceful days at the seaside. Gabrielle Chanel was captivated by the smart and stylish atmosphere of Biarritz. It was here that she decided to open her first couture house in 1915 in a villa facing the casino.
She experienced instant success: neighboring Spain was neutral during the war, and orders poured in from Spanish royalty and very wealthy clients, as well as from French clients who were won over by the innovative luxury of Chanel. Biarritz had also served as a resort destination for Russian aristocrats since the 19th century, who purchased and built numerous villas there. After the fall of the czar, many of them sought refuge in Biarritz. It was here in 1920 that Gabrielle Chanel met Grand Duke Dimitri Pavlovitch, cousin of the czar, with whom she had an affair until 1922. She spent much time with him at various villas along the Basque coast. In 1920, Gabrielle Chanel became the symbol of elegance, introducing the world to a modern sense of style that she embodied ever so perfectly. It was reflected in her streamlined silhouettes, ankles revealed by shortened skirts and dresses, simple garments with clean lines, and soft materials such as jersey knit, fabrics so comfortable that she made swimsuits from them, in addition to the jacket and skirt suits that she was the first to wear.
While enjoying freedom, an outdoor lifestyle and the modern winds that were blowing around her, Gabrielle Chanel cut her hair short and exposed herself to the sun. Women quickly followed suit, mimicking the look that would foreshadow the profound changes yet to come of a society heading full steam into the 20th century.
Françoise Claire Prodhon
June 12th, 2014Par Françoise-Claire Prodhon
The Paris-Dallas 2013/14 collection conjures all the fantasy and romance of the Wild Frontier. From the pioneer days of pre-Civil War Texas, to the refinement of early 19th century Americana, Karl Lagerfeld refused to let this whimsical and distinctly contemporary collection linger in the past.
The Wild West is won in sophisticated details that showcase expert craftsmanship and impeccable taste: embroidery, feathers, fringe, pleats and frills lend a soft, feminine twist to this home-on-the-range style. Suits take on a whole new twist: a loose-fitting jacket with fringe embellished with stars and a mid-calf cowgirl skirt to be worn over boots. The urban yet unrestricted silhouette is topped with thick woolen ponchos and capes, winter coats fastened at the waist and worn over jackets, a leather topstitched cowboy shirt worn with pants and a leather coat with fringe detail. Elegant eveningwear features star-spangled gowns of velvet and tulle, satin blouses with fringe and flared sleeves, and pleated skirts with lace, feather and tulle flounces paired with delicately embroidered tops. The signature Chanel palette of white, beige, red, navy and black is enhanced here with browns, grays, taupe, and pink accents.
The little black jacket fearlessly features Wild West shoulder pads. Tweed, leather, knit, denim, cashmere and muslin are speckled with Native American geometric symbols and stars –a favorite Chanel motif, and a nod here to the “Star-Spangled Banner.” Accessories are also given a romantic western treatment: bags and gloves with fringe detail, branded purses, Civil-War-era-inspired Stetson hats, pantyhose branded with a trompe l’œil cowboy boot print, and mid-calf and knee-high boots set to take on open prairies and city streets.
The Paris-Dallas Métiers d’Art 2013/14 collection is now available in boutiques.
Photo by Benoit Peverelli
March 5th, 2014Par Françoise-Claire Prodhon
Chanel Shopping Center provided the backdrop for Chanel’s 2014/15 Fall-Winter Ready-To-Wear collection. The sprawling supermarket, constructed for the occasion beneath the glass roof of the Grand Palais, made for a tongue-in-cheek setting that evoked the consumerist culture imagery of Pop Art as well as the concept of easy everyday luxury. On arrival, the 3,400 guests browsed shelves stocked with goods renamed and packaged especially for the show –
Chanel-branded beverages, groceries, fresh produce and home improvement supplies – before taking their seats as the 79 models began their sweep through the aisles.
Karl Lagerfeld’s collection resonates with his resolutely modern take on the Chanel vocabulary, electrified by a distinctly urban vibe. Sneakers are the footwear of choice, paired with blazers, dresses and coats, and in knee-high lace-up boot hybrids; the models, freed from heels, had a definite spring in their step. Showcasing lively looks and slender silhouettes, the collection riffs on the richness of colors and fabrics. Color is everywhere: in the muted tones of soft tweeds, in the bright monochrome tints of a palette of salad green, carrot orange, beet pink, and lemon yellow, in the contrasting tones of stunning geometric prints reminiscent of early 20th-century avant-garde art, and shimmering across lamé and iridescent knitwear. Black, bright silver and pewter bring clean-cut definition to these silhouettes. Tweed is featured in overcoats and oversized three-quarter-length coats, as well as starkly cut dresses and blazers. Blazers composed of four to five sections serve to define waistlines accentuated by modern zipped corsets; blazers, like dresses, are paired with slim-fit pants and leggings to create a streamlined silhouette while allowing a glimpse of the ankle. The silhouettes of the collection alternate effortless elegance with sporty looks and pared-down lines: sumptuous clean-lined trapeze and bouclé coats in quilted fabrics, short jackets in braided leather, trompe l’œil dresses, and flowing blazers with contrasting braiding. Fun accessories cheekily complete the collection: chain necklaces with metal or tweed padlocks stamped with the double C logo, cascades of pearls knotted around the neck like scarves, tweed sunglasses, black patent quilted leather shopping carts, and small purses.
Photo by Olivier Saillant
January 24th, 2014Par Françoise-Claire Prodhon
Minimalist staging set the tone for the Chanel Spring-Summer 2014 Haute Couture show. Beneath the domed glass ceiling of the Grand Palais, a stage consisting of glowing white walls and polished steel panels revealed a large staircase from which models emerged at the show’s opening. Within this nightclub atmosphere musician Sébastien Tellier, dressed in a blue and pink suit, was accompanied by a white-clad orchestra.
Karl Lagerfeld excels in the art of giving Haute Couture a modern vibe. Conveying a feeling of youth, freedom and lightness with a collection free of superfluous details, its luxury lies in its exquisitely refined materials and elegant clean cuts. Although pure lines are already an essential part of Chanel's vocabulary, they were enhanced by the freshness and fluidity reflected in each one of the collection's 64 looks.
Karl Lagerfeld revealed new proportions for the Chanel suit. Silhouettes were corseted and cinched at the waist, accentuated by cropped jackets and drop-waisted skirts. Accessories took center stage with this structured yet relaxed line, which featured elbow pads, knee pads and fanny packs exuding an urban chic spirit. Woven and sometimes embroidered tweeds, light tones (ranging from pure white to ivory, powdery pink to orange-pink and cotton candy, pearly or iridescent grays, mauve and lamé) softened the graphic silhouettes by adding a fresh touch. From flowing gowns to long narrow jackets worn with skinny cropped trousers, Karl Lagerfeld lightened the mood of this collection even more by pairing each look with matching sneakers, evening wear included.
This sublime footwear reflected the same fluidity, a simplicity of lines showcased by the lightness of transparent materials such as chiffon, lace and tulle, as well as airy fabrics sometimes embroidered with sequins or adorned with feathers studded with metallic details. Evening gowns rose to new heights by revealing the ankle. Once again, Karl Lagerfeld selected fresh colors for his gowns in shimmery or iridescent tones that reflected light, with dramatic black making a few select appearances.
Sketch by Karl Lagerfeld
January 30th, 2013Par Françoise-Claire Prodhon
The newest chapter in “Culture Chanel” is based on an exceptional loan from the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, Picasso's spectacular stage backdrop entitled Le Train Bleu (1924). Following two exhibitions of the same name (one held at the National Museum of China in Beijing, and the other at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Shanghai), Chanel is partnering with the Guangdong Museum of Art to host an exhibition at the Guangzhou Opera House, a prestigious building designed by the architect Zaha Hadid. "Designed to retell various chapters of the same story, “Culture Chanel” seeks to reveal Gabrielle Chanel's unique journey with Chanel,” explained Jean-Louis Froment, who has been commissioned to curate these exhibitions.
For this chapter, Sergei Diaghilev's ballet serves as the backdrop for the exhibition, a ballet named after Le Train Bleu (The Blue Train), and a luxury overnight train that first began operation in December 1922 and carried passengers from Paris to the French Riviera. It symbolizes the yearning for leisure and travel that was prevalent at this time. Diaghilev considered Le Train Bleu more of an operetta to be danced than a ballet. It was presented for the first time in Paris in June 1924, featuring music by Darius Milhaud, a libretto penned by Jean Cocteau, scenery designed by Henri Laurens and a stage backdrop and program created by Pablo Picasso. Gabrielle Chanel, who was in charge of costume design, created sporty jersey garments for this avant-garde ballet that echoed her vision of fashion at the time. The protagonists of this project would remain close, faithful collaborators with Gabrielle Chanel for the rest of her life. "These are the artists who led Gabrielle Chanel to consider her work as art, which helped her transition from the concept of fashion to that of style,” emphasizes Jean-Louis Froment. This thought process inspired Gabrielle Chanel to create a language that was both modern and timeless, which is illustrated brilliantly through the display cases filled with both her designs and designs by Karl Lagerfeld.
The exhibition decrypts Chanel style by focusing on five major themes: Breathe, Move, Love, Dream and Invent, which culminate with the monumental stage backdrop by Picasso. The world of Chanel comes to life with 400 works on display in a diaphanous and elegant setting. These include artwork (including approximately 30 drawings by Picasso), photographs, books from Gabrielle Chanel's personal library, films, couture pieces by both Gabrielle Chanel and Karl Lagerfeld, jewelry, watches and perfumes.
Guangzhou Opera House
No 1, Zhujiang Xi Lu, Zhujiang New Town, Tianhe District,
510623 Guangzhou, China
Opening hours: 10am-7pm Monday to Sunday
January 16 - March 3, 2013
Painting © Succession Picasso 2013, Victoria and Albert Museum, London