An exhibition of one of the world's most influential fashion designers will land in Melbourne this summer. Gabrielle Chanel: Fashion Manifesto is the first exhibition in Australia to solely focus on the fashion contributions of 20th-century French designer Gabrielle (AKA Coco) Chanel.
The exhibition is coming to the NGV in partnership with Paris's leading fashion museum, the Palais Galliera, which launched this significant exhibition in autumn 2020. Melbourne will be the first city outside of France to host the exhibit, with the gallery presenting more than 100 Chanel garments from the Palais Galliera, Patrimoine de Chanel (Chanel's archives), as well as from additional public and private collections. Dr Miranda Wallace, senior curator of internation exhibition projects at the NGV, says that Chanel's works have stood the test of time from the designer's earliest days, right through until now. "The brand development was extraordinary in those early years. She became such a big name very quickly, because she was doing something quite different."
Gabrielle Chanel: Fashion Manifesto presents Chanel's work across a series of thematic and chronological sections (beginning as early as 1916), exploring her enduring influence on fashion, as well as in perfume, jewellery and accessory design. The exhibition space draws on Chanel's use of line, as well as the palette that she was known for – the space has plenty of crisp blacks with accents of ivory, red and gold. The NGV's version uses more multimedia, however, than the original exhibition from Paris. "This is an entirely different presentation of the show," says Wallace, who explains that use of video is to show the "great sense of movement" imbued in Chanel's works.
Importantly for Melbourne audiences, the exhibition features some of Chanel's earliest use of black to connote modernity, as well as her lace gowns, tweed suits (made famous by the likes of Jacqueline Kennedy and Princess Grace of Monaco). "[The suits] became a kind of uniform for the modern woman," says Wallace. "It doesn't matter if you were 20 or 40 or 60, they were adaptable and wearable for all ages". Chanel was pivotal in redefining fashion for women in the 20th century, creating garments that offered a sense of luxury alongside comfort, even championing the longstanding fashion staple that is the little black dress.
Gabrielle Chanel: Fashion Manifesto runs from December 5 to April 25, with tickets on sale now.