Mademoiselle Privé: A Fashion Affair At London’s Saatchi Gallery

Gabrielle Chanel, also known as Coco Chanel, was an influential figure in her time. She was a woman who stood out from the rest with her masculine appearance and sharp humour; she continues to inspire the fashion industry and people all over the world today.

Her creations ooze class and are recognisable from the famous tweed pattern and camellia flower that feature in Chanel cosmetics, clothes and shoes. Another influential figure in the fashion world, and one who has carried on the tradition of Chanel, is the ever legendary Karl Lagerfeld. The iconicity of Gabrielle Chanel has been intertwined with Karl Lagerfeld’s modern thoughts, enabling the designer label to remain at the top of its field. This combination also allows for exhibitions like Mademoiselle Privé to take place for the public in which we enter parts of the Chanel world we wouldn’t normally see.

As you can imagine with the large scale of advertising placed in social media, newspapers and billboards people turned up in their thousands during the 3 weeks the exhibition was on display. Around 3,000 people a day visited the exhibition; amazing numbers which increased even more at the weekend. Despite arriving before opening hours, my family and I were greeted with a queue that stretched out as far as the famous Kings Road.

There was a tranquil garden entrance before arriving at the building and the pathway was surrounded by delicate flowers, the designers of the garden where the winners at this year’s RHS Chelsea Flower Show; the Rich brothers. They captured the essence of Gabrielle Chanel and important aspects of her life were explored in the three parts of the garden: ‘Liberty’ to represent the freedom she gave to women; ‘Boy Capel’ the love of Coco Chanel’s life; and ‘Leo’ after her birth sign. The designers beautifully combined her love of flowers, the famous colours of Chanel (black, white and gold) and C-shaped pathways, making it picturesque and it building excitement before even entering the exhibition. 

Furthermore, the exhibition was brought up to speed as it used a huge amount of technology, which of course is now a huge part of our lives. An App was specifically created for the exhibition which was encouraged to download for free from the App store; little did we know it would be an interactive tool providing us with handfuls of information. For those fortunate to have smart phones it was incredible to watch what was happening on our screens. In each section of the exhibition the app knew our location and provided specific information about each room, whether it be about pictures, clothing or a pre-recorded video of her authentic apartment in Paris.

Once inside there were 3 floors dedicated to the exhibition, you began by walking into a mirrored room with an exact replica of Gabrielle’s iconic staircase in her Rue Cambon apartment in Paris. The first part of the exhibition was called ‘One day in Coco’s life’ which contained different aspects about her early career for example, a setup of her first millinery shop that displayed white hats and hat boxes to resemble when she designed hats for high class men and women. The colour scheme was kept to the classic black and white of Chanel in the first couple of rooms but as we delved in to her time spent in Scotland, her love for tweed became apparent! Different quotes littered the walls with many pictures showing her travelling overseas and in Scotland with friends. It was obvious that Chanel had a love for diamonds and for the people lucky enough to visit the exhibition, we were able to view her original designs: a large model of a star encrusted diamond necklace created by Chanel in 1932 rotated inside a cage.          

Chanel N˚5 created in 1921 is one of the brands most iconic perfumes, it has such a distinct scent and interestingly was the first ever fragrance to be named after a fashion designer. One of my favourite rooms was the ‘N˚5’ room, it was decorated with one wall of writing which contained information about the fragrance and dotted around the room were timed containers that opened. Inside were different colours such as pink, green and yellow liquid that let out an aroma which filled the air; everybody was captivated by them. 

The first floor displayed the ‘Haute Couture’ pieces that were so delicate and truly beautiful:

“Haute Couture embodies the spirit of Chanel, it transcends time and is the ultimate union between craftsmanship and innovation”.

The dark room focused all of the attention on to the Couture pieces, they consisted of a dark palette of feathers, lace and embroidery. 

The next room, ‘Bijoux De Diamants’, was the central aspect of the exhibition as it showcased portraits of well-known celebrities adorned in exquisite Gabrielle Chanel jewellery.

Walking around this section was the point when I realised people of all ages had come to show their appreciation and love of Chanel just like I had. An older lady stood in front of me said: “I just love the glamour” and another older lady visiting with her husband looked at the jewellery and Couture pieces in awe, she was just so happy to be there. 

As a Chanel fanatic myself, the exhibition offered amazing spectacles left right and centre. There were so many more aspects to the gallery I haven’t even mentioned, for example three workshops: Lesage embroidery making, Lemarié feather and flower making and the story of Chanel N˚5. These were taken by Chanel advisors, who taught 45minute sessions up to four times a day to a lucky handful of people. 

I hope the partnership between Chanel and the London Saatchi Gallery continues, the exhibition was a fantastic insight into one of the most famous and well respected designers in the world and I’d love to see similar exhibitions in future!