After a two years closure for refurbishment, Paris' Palais Galliera reopens today with Gabrielle Chanel: Manifeste de Mode. Sponsored by Chanel, the museum's exhibition area that holds the showhas been doubled to accomodate the more than 200,000 outfits from the fashion designer, which will rotate due to their fragility.
The show is a celebration of Chanel's audacity, her instinct for discovering newness, and her fundamental role in thefashion history. In her time, Chanel offered women a way of dressing that transported them to the contemporary, abolishing the residual opulence of the Belle Epoque and 1950s silhouettes, which were hyper-feminine and unsuitable for an active lifestyle. An exhibition full of more than 350 pieces, Manifeste de Mode is divided into two sections: one temporal, which is emphasized by ten emblematic portraits of the couturière, and one devoted to the exploring the codes of the Maison.
The journey begins with the opening of the millier's boutique in 1912 in Deauville, the 1916 marinière jersey, and the first models created by Mademoiselle Chanel using techniques of men's tailoring for softer fabrics such as tweed and jersey. Chanel's clothes focused on functionality, the sobriety of the men's wardrobe, and the dandy elegance of Étienne Balsan, who was a man of the world and Chanel's first love.
There are white, beige, midnight blue, and black dresses with the austere luxury absorbed by Chanel in her teenage years at the Cistercian monastery of Aubazine, including various examples of the petite robe noir made in 1926. The monochromatic dresses are covered with pearls, sequins, fringes, and embroideries of incredible sophistication by Maria Pavlovna, the Russian Grand Duchess and founder of the House of Kitmir in Paris. Featured in this collection are a few Romanov jewels that Maria and her brother Dimitri (another lover of Chanel) saved—as well as on the Byzantine mosaics of S.Marco discovered in Venice together with Misia Sert, which formed Chanel's taste for jewels of a barbaric opulence. She loved to accumulate jewelry and ornaments specifically made by Étienne de Beaumont, Fulco di Verdura, and Robert Goossens.
The high jewelry in the 1932 collection is made exclusively of diamonds and platinum and entrusted (not only) to the purged trait and supreme elegance of Paul Iribe. The gallery (east of Galliera) is dedicated to Chanel No. 5, an abstract perfume created by Ernest Beaux in 1921. It is a fragrance that defies time thanks to the unsurpassed mix of its 80 components: including Ylang ylang, Grasse jasmine, May rose, and first-time aldehydes.
Of course, on display are the pieces that most identify Chanel in the collective imagination today, which Mademoiselle herself launched at 70 years old on her return to the Parisian fashion scene (after 14 years of closing the Chanel fashion house during World War II). The suit—with a soft jacket as light as a cardigan, and the knee-high skirt resting on the hips—is from 1954. The 2.55 matelassé bag with a bandoulière chain is from the following year. And finally, the two-tone shoe is made in 1957 by Raymond Massaro with a beige body and a black tip to make the foot look smaller. It is just one part of Chanel's self-made indémodable universe, a legacy that will never go out of fashion.