It has been a long, tantalising wait, but finally the Palais Galliera has announced that it will re-open on 1st October with a brand new show dedicated to Gabrielle Chanel and her Fashion Manifesto. This promises to be a feast for the eyes and an extraordinary insight into the career of one of France’s greatest businesswomen and couturiers. It is also a suitably ambitious return for one of the greatest fashion museums in the world. The Palais Galliera has been sorely missed since July 2018 when it closed for a renovation project to create a new basement exhibition space. The work was supported by Chanel and the new galleries created will be named for Gabrielle Chanel herself.
The Palais Galliera holds a mighty collection of some 30,000 pieces of clothing, 35,000 accessories and 85,000 photographs and artworks.
Since opening in 1977, it has forged a reputation for creativity and thought-provoking displays, many staged outside the walls of the Palais in venues chosen to complement perfectly the clothes on show- the 2010 exhibition of Madame Gres’s exquisite draping and pleating alongside the sculptures of Paris’s Musee Bourdelle was unforgettable.
Now, with more space we’ll have a whole year to view items from this permanent collection, that will trace the development of costume from the eighteenth century to the present day. As well as the new Gabrielle Chanel exhibition galleries there will also be a study suite and a new bookshop. I suspect I may never leave.
Back to the new Chanel exhibition though, which promises to match in its scale the scope of Chanel’s own vision and ambition. She left her creative imprint on fashion, fragrance, accessories, theatre and a whole lifestyle for women emancipated from Edwardian restraint. Her empire celebrated both her iconoclastic spirit and her practical elegance. More than simply beautiful clothing, this was a manifesto for change.
Galliera promises an exhibition divided into two parts, showcasing over 350 items. This first is an exploration of Chanel’s life and career, the key features of her signature style and classic allure – the mariniere, the little black dress, Chanel No 5. It shows the low points as well as highs: the closure of the couture house during the war and its re-surgence to provide a relaxed alternative to Dior’s corseted New Look.
The second part highlights the signature aspects of the Chanel style – the tweed, the colour combinations, the toe-capped pumps, the iconic 2.55 handbag. Over one hundred years since Chanel started her fashion business, her creations have not only remained in style in a famously fickle industry, but have acquired the status of classic items, universally recognised for their practical and aesthetic allure.
This is not the first time we have had a major fashion exhibition devoted to this extraordinary innovator, but with the combined forces of the house of Chanel and the Palais Galliera, it may well be the finest.
Gabrielle Chanel, Manifeste de mode, du 1er octobre 2020 au 14 mars 2021, Palais Galliera 10 Avenue Pierre 1er de Serbie, 75016 Paris www.palaisgalliera.paris.fr/