Thursday, September 22, 2011


Posted by Fashion Junior at Large

Fashion weeks come and go, but we will always have Chanel. Harrods are reminding us of that irrefutable fact this month with their Chanel pop-up shop and promenade experience.  Unfortunately, there are just a few days left of the collaboration but if you are in need of some Chanel soothing then Harrods must be your first port of call.
Mlle. Chanel (Image from

Images courtesy of Chanel
The FashEd and I have recently been absorbed by Justine Picardie's incredible biography 'Coco Chanel: The Legend and the Life'. And so Chanel seems to have been in the background throughout fashion week, when we were focused on London talent and new trends. In the back of my mind, there was still a little black dress, a matelot striped top and a string of pearls. I knew that any day these could be pulled out as wardrobe failsafes and look just as chic now as they would have done any time in the past 60 or 70 years- that is the power of Chanel. So, it is apt that London's greatest fashion destination play host to the Chanel homage which, I'm pleased to report, has been formulated through close collaboration with Karl Lagerfeld's studio team.

On the ground floor, 23 windows have been taken over to showcase the AW11 collection. Then inside is an ephemeral boutique- I love the frenchified phrase they have chosen for what is effectively a pop-up shop.
The classic Harrods bag has had a Chanel makeover, and can be yours for £1,830
There is also a beauty area which features supersized bottles of Chanel No.5, Chance and Mademoiselle (all of which, apart from Chance, are available for sale). Picardie dispells all myths which swirl around the significance of the choice of number for the first of Chanel's many perfumes: 'Mademoiselle Chanel replied, 'I'm presenting my dress collection on the 5th of May, the fifth month of the year; let's the leave the name No. 5' This number would bring her luck'. Here Picardie is quoting Ernest Beaux who had been commissioned by Chanel to create a perfume to add an extra element to her growing fashion house which had begun just with hats. It was the fifth in the series of scents he created which she chose. And thus the number became a lucky charm for Mademoiselle. Picardie herself speaks about just how much No.5 permeated Chanel's entire existence in the video below.

And then to Harrod's third floor where a space of 350 square metres has been dedicated to taking customers through a subliminal Chanel experience which transports one between a miniature recreation of the set of the AW11 show, a film sequence showing the making a 2.55 bag and Karl's library, amongst others. The promenade experience offers complete immersion in the Chanel brand, its history and many facets.

The House of Chanel has many recurring symbols and motifs which can be be traced right through its archives. One of the most prominent is the camellia which is found not only in Chanel clothes and accessories but also 'in her salon, they glittered as crystals from her chandelier, and were carved into her Coromandel screens'. Picardie traces Chanel's camellia obsession back to the effect which Alexandre Dumas' novel La Dame aux camélias had upon a young Chanel when she went to see a performance of the work at the age of 13. The camelia's odourless quality seems to have captured Chanel's fascination, especially given that she was quite obsessed with cleanliness and lack of dirt; the flower could transcend life and death because there is no palpable transition to be made. 
Harrods bears with Chanel AW11 capes

Chanel clad bears take refusge in a mini recreation of Rue Cambon
Chanel dolls

Chanel's legendary mirrored Rue Cambon salon is recreated complete with mannequins in Chanel Couture.

Oh to open one of these boxes for oneself...
 A complete treat- the chance to look at pieces of vintage Chanel couture in close-up....
Many of Chanel's most enduring items were not created until she reached her 70s. Picardie quotes Life magazine: 'At 71, Gabrielle Chanel is creating more than fashion: a revolution'. The 2.55 bag, supersized below, is a case in point. Chanel took the lessons she had learnt from previous bags she had created and wove into this key signifiers of her past 'the quilted leather was said to be an indication of her love of riding as a young woman, dating back to a time when quilted material was worn only by stable-lads'. Chanel was a magnifent rider and fisherwoman, but you must read the book to find out more! Picardie continues, 'the chain that served as a shoulder strap was just as evocative:golden metal plaited with a leather cord, suggestive of horse bridles and harnesses, and also perhaps of the belts worn by the Catholic nuns who had educated her as a child'. But on top of this, Chanel simply had an inkling that 'women love chains'. An inkling which has proved an unbelievable money spinner and cultural landmark for Chanel, France and fashion ever since.
Karl in his bibliotheque
A giant bottle of Chanel No.5 houses a screen which shows the ad starring Audrey Tatou....

So  I cannot recommend enough a visit to Harrods to soak up the final days of the promenade, followed by  immersing yourself in Picardie's epic, entertaining and brilliant account of Chanel's life.

N.B All quotes taken from Picardie's biography of Chanel. Images, unless otherwise indicated, Fashion Junior at Large.

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