The UK’s First Major Coco Chanel Exhibition Is Coming to the V&A

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Gabrielle Chanel. Fashion Manifesto
Courtesy of Victoria and Albert Museum

Opening in September 2023, the exhibition will showcase the designer’s work across a pioneering, six-decade career

Gabrielle ‘Coco’ Chanel’s groundbreaking approach to womenswear has seen her hailed as a pioneer of modern fashion but, up until now, no major UK museum has devoted an exhibition to her work. This is set to change next year, however, as the Victoria and Albert Museum delves into Chanel’s heritage collections to illustrate the remarkable career of the French couturière.

Titled Gabrielle Chanel. Fashion Manifesto, the show will explore the full scope of the luxury fashion house founder’s work, from the opening of her first millinery boutique in Paris in 1910, to the showcase of her final Chanel collection in 1971. In doing so, it will bring 180 looks together for the first time – including clothes from the Parisian fashion museum Palais Galliera, and heritage pieces direct from the fashion house – alongside jewellery, accessories, cosmetics, and perfumes.

Making the radical decision (in early 20th century France) to design clothes first and foremost for herself, Coco Chanel is often singled out as the brians behind a range of modern classics, from the little black dress, to the quilted 2.55 bag reimagined by the late Karl Lagerfeld during his tenure as creative director at Chanel. The new, blockbuster show will also feature outfits created specifically for Hollywood stars such as Lauren Bacall and Marlene Dietrich.

Despite marking the first major UK exhibition of Chanel’s work, Gabrielle Chanel. Fashion Manifesto is based on a show of the same name that was originally displayed at the Palais Galliera in 2020, and subsequently reimagined for Melbourne’s National Gallery of Victoria. In London, the exhibition will be tailored to its new surroundings once again, with the addition of rarely-seen pieces from the V&A’s own archive.

“Gabrielle Chanel devoted her long life to creating, perfecting and promoting a new kind of elegance,” says Miren Arzalluz, director of the Palais Galliera, “based on freedom of movement, a natural and casual pose, a subtle elegance that shuns all extravagances, a timeless style for a new kind of woman. That was her fashion manifesto, a legacy that has never gone out of style.”

Gabrielle Chanel. Fashion Manifesto will run at the V&A Museum from 16 September 2023 – 25 February 2024.