Two reasons we love fashion exhibitions: They are the most engaging way to discover and learn more about a brand’s heritage, and they also make for one photogenic (read: Instagram-worthy) outing. Anyone living on a culture vulture diet these days would also know that this year is a good time to binge on fancy exhibitions and retrospectives from major fashion brands. The latest to join the fray is Chanel.
Last Friday, the French marquee launched its Mademoiselle Prive exhibition in Seoul at the contemporary D Museum located in the stylish Yongsan-gu district. Happening till July 19, it’s the second leg of the exhibition of the same name that first debuted in London in October 2015. The premise of the Mademoiselle Prive tour remains though: to showcase the different aspects of the Chanel universe, from the origins and sources of the inspirations that the brand uses in its creations.
The themes of this year’s exhibition cover three big areas: haute couture reinvented by Karl Lagerfeld, the iconic Chanel No. 5 fragrance, and lastly the Bijoux de Diamants jewellery collection. The latter is the only high jewellery range Coco Chanel designed in 1932. Making the trip to the museum more special? Guests need to sign up for free via the Mademoiselle Prive app on their phones. While making a trip to the exhibition is not possible unless you’re in Seoul, we highlight all the spots that’d make a picture perfect snap for your Instagram feed.
Making the trip to the museum more special and less of a scrum? Guests need to sign up for free via the Mademoiselle Prive app on their phones. While making a trip to the exhibition is not possible unless you’re heading to Seoul anytime soon, we highlight all the spots that’d make for an amazing trip and great feed for your Instagram.
#1: You’d want to take a photo op right from the start
No filters needed here. That’s because the glass door, windows and floor of the entrance of the museum are swathed in a holographic material to futuristic effect. It’s a trippy prelude to the exhibition which begins at the bottom of the stairway. The ceiling meanwhile, is a lightbox draped in patterns inspired by the lacquered Coromandel screens which Coco Chanel collected throughout her private apartment.
#2: It all begins with a hat… store
If you know your Chanel history by heart, you’d know that Coco Chanel started out as a milliner. The first room of the exhibition is all about that and replicates Chanel’s first store which she opened in 1914 in the seaside town of Deauville. The vanity table has a mini film on loop on the mirror/screen and is a great spot for selfies. The hat boxes emblazoned with the words “Gabrielle Chanel” are not just decorative. It’s the exact reproduction of the logo Chanel used for her hat business. A trivia: The logos also make an appearance on T-shirts and sweaters for the Fall/Winter ’17 Starting Point ready-to-wear collection.
#3: Totems are Chanel’s answer to uber cool art sculptures
Karl Lagerfeld plays art curator in the second room of the exhibition. To capture the different codes of the house, he created six different totems comprising some of the most iconic design elements you’d find present in any Chanel creation today. Among them is “The Wheat Sheath”, made of you guessed it, wheat. Chanel was fond of the plant which is a symbol of prosperity and creativity — think of it as her answer to feng shui. In fact, she even had her pal Salvador Dali paint a wheat drawing for her apartment and always have bouquets of the plant around her home.
The cutest totem perhaps would be “Coco’s Lucky Numbers”. Made up of domino blocks, the robot-style sculpture is emblazoned with some of Chanel’s most important digits. Among them is “18” (1918 was the year she established her haute couture brand at Rue Cambon), “21” (1921 was when she introduced Chanel No. 5 to the world), and “19” (she was born on August 19, 1883).
#4: You’d get a sensory overload in this dark room
To capture the essence of its iconic Chanel No. 5 fragrance, Chanel created an airlocked chamber that houses an industrial pipe organ that plays the tune of dripping essential oils. Here, some of the notes that make up the 80 scents in the No. 5 permeate the room. They include ylang ylang, May rose, jasmine and sandalwood.
#5: You’d want to get lost in this maze of fabrics
Luxurious tulle, tweed, cotton and silks that Chanel uses in its haute couture workshops are turned into walls of this maze-like structure. It’s a dreamscape to walk through the display and touch the actual fabrics that go into the making of couture outfits. At the end of the maze, is a staircase leading up to the second floor. The walls of the staircase are wrapped in canvas and stitched like some sort of fashionable graffiti to mimic the way the seamstresses would work with their patterns.
#6: These couture creations look like they belong to the future
That’s because Karl Lagerfeld has given 12 haute couture dresses he designed a high-tech X-Ray treatment which enhances their frothy but light quality. The effect also allows details such as the embroidery by the Lesage ateliers and the feather work by the artisans at its Lemarie workshop to shine even more.
#7: These style icons make high jewellery look darn cool
Coco Chanel created the Bijoux de Diamants collection in 1932 at a time when costume jewellery was at the height of fashion. Till today, it remains her one and only stab at designing high jewellery. 85 years on, the platinum and diamond pieces still look modern and fresh with designs like the bowtie-inspired Noeud Papillon necklace and the now iconic Comete open necklace.
At the exhibition, see how millennials like G-Dragon, Soo Joo Park and Irene Kim as well as French style icons like Caroline de Maigret parlay their distinctive style with the re-edition of the jewellery pieces in a series of Polaroid portraits. For something more OTT, check out the giant replica of a Bijoux de Diamants necklace inside a rotating cage. Perfect Boomerang moment, we say.
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