Chanel, the renowned luxury fashion house, is set to unveil a groundbreaking exhibition titled “Gabrielle Chanel: A Fashion Manifesto” at London’s prestigious Victoria and Albert (V&A) Museum. Running from September 16, 2023, to February 25, 2024, this highly anticipated event marks the first of its kind in the UK dedicated to the legacy of Coco Chanel, promising an insightful exploration of her timeless style evolution.

The exhibition is a remarkable journey that traces the life and career of Gabrielle Chanel, from her modest beginnings as a milliner in Paris in 1910 to her trailblazing impact on the fashion world, culminating in her final collection in 1971.

Visitors to the exhibition will be treated to an extraordinary collection of approximately 200 outfits, many of which will be displayed together for the very first time. In addition to these captivating garments, an array of accessories, fragrances, and jewelry will be on display, all of which bear witness to Chanel’s transformative influence on the fashion landscape. What sets this exhibition apart is its deep dive into the innovative techniques and design philosophies that Chanel pioneered, which continue to resonate in contemporary fashion.

Inspired by the original “Gabrielle Chanel: A Fashion Manifesto” exhibition at the Palais Galliera in Paris, the V&A presentation enhances the experience by incorporating over 100 new objects, including 60 fresh looks. This collaborative effort features rare pieces from the V&A’s own collection, alongside selections from Palais Galliera and the Patrimoine de CHANEL, the esteemed heritage collections of the fashion house in Paris.

Notable highlights within the exhibition include a Chanel creation dating back to 1916, serving as one of the earliest surviving examples of her work. Additionally, visitors can admire the meticulously crafted attire that Chanel designed for the Ballets Russes’ iconic rendition of “Le Train Bleu” in 1924. The exhibition also pays homage to Chanel’s role in shaping the wardrobes of Hollywood luminaries such as Lauren Bacall and Marlene Dietrich. Moreover, it spotlights Chanel’s pioneering evening trousers, a precursor to modern fashion, and a collection of outfits from her final fashion line in 1971.

At the heart of this exhibition lies Chanel’s unique philosophy of self-inspiration. Chanel was known for designing not for the world at large, but for herself, creating garments that epitomized independence, modernity, and functionality. The exhibition is thoughtfully organized into ten detailed sections, each shedding light on different aspects of Chanel’s craftsmanship. These sections explore her innovative use of fabrics and silhouettes, her groundbreaking introduction of evening trousers, and her iconic creation, the Chanel suit.

This comprehensive examination of Chanel’s enduring legacy also emphasizes her distinctive British influences, shedding light on her affinity for tweed and her collaborations with British textile companies.

Tristram Hunt, Director of the V&A, expressed his enthusiasm for this collaboration, stating, “CHANEL owes much of its success to the templates first laid down by its founder Gabrielle Chanel, over a century ago. 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.”

Miren Arzalluz, Director of the Palais Galliera, highlighted Chanel’s unique contribution to fashion, saying, “Gabrielle Chanel devoted her long life to creating, perfecting and promoting a new kind of elegance based on freedom of movement, a natural and casual pose, a subtle elegance that shuns all extravagances, a timeless style for a new kind of woman. That was her fashion manifesto, a legacy that has never gone out of style.”

Bruno Pavlovsky, President of CHANEL SAS and President of CHANEL Fashion, expressed their gratitude and excitement for the exhibition, saying, “We are happy and honored that the first exhibition dedicated to Gabrielle Chanel to be held in the UK, will be presented at the V&A, one of the most prestigious museums in the world. Gabrielle Chanel was a legend in her own lifetime. This exhibition will analyze her contribution to fashion and her radical vision of a style that created modernity and reflected the aspirations of women and the evolution of their place in society. CHANEL is delighted to contribute to this project, providing access to the Patrimoine de CHANEL, and thanks the V&A for hosting this exceptional exhibition.”

The exhibition’s ten sections provide a comprehensive portrait of Gabrielle Chanel’s genius:

  1. Towards A New Elegance: Visitors are transported to the early 1910s, witnessing the budding career of Gabrielle Chanel and her departure from the era’s flamboyant fashion trends.
  2. The Emergence of a Style: This segment delves into the 1920s and 1930s, when Chanel’s signature style emerged, characterized by understated elegance and innovative design.
  3. The Invisible Accessory: Explore the launch of Chanel’s first perfume, N°5, and its significant role in the brand’s identity.
  4. Luxury and Line: Discover Chanel’s skill in harmonizing classicism and innovation in her eveningwear.
  5. Closing the House: Learn about Chanel’s wartime retreat and triumphant return to fashion.
  6. The Suit: Explore the iconic Chanel suit and its transformative impact on modern femininity.
  7. Chanel Codes: Understand how Gabrielle Chanel redefined accessories, giving birth to iconic items like the Chanel 2.55 handbag and two-tone slingback shoes.
  8. Into the Evening: Witness Chanel’s eveningwear creations, designed with luxurious fabrics and inspired by her personal aesthetics.
  9. Costume Jewellery: Explore Chanel’s elevation of costume jewelry to an art form.
  10. A Timeless Allure: The exhibition concludes by celebrating Chanel’s enduring style and showcasing her evolution over time.

For those eager to embark on this captivating sartorial journey, tickets are available for purchase on the V&A’s official website at The “Gabrielle Chanel: A Fashion Manifesto” exhibition stands as the latest gem in the V&A’s rich tapestry of fashion exhibitions, following in the footsteps of iconic showcases featuring the creative brilliance of legends such as Christian Dior and Alexander McQueen. This exhibition is a tribute to a fashion pioneer whose legacy continues to shape the industry today.

Victoria and Albert Museum Website