Cementing its position as the beating heart of Melbourne’s cultural scene, the NGV has announced that Gabrielle Chanel. Fashion Manifesto – a curated exhibition celebrating the life and designs of renowned French couturiér Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel – will grace its hallowed halls in December.

Throughout Mademoiselle Chanel’s illustrious career, she created designs focused on sophistication, function and comfort. From experimenting with innovative fabrics to transforming the traditionally masculine suit into a style statement for women, her impact on fashion can still be seen today. 

The exhibition will showcase more than 100 garments that highlight the evolution and breadth of her design language and signature style. For fashion aficionados, Gabrielle Chanel. Fashion Manifesto is a rare opportunity to appreciate the detail and finish of Chanel’s original designs in person.

Portrait of Gabrielle Chanel
Image: Gabrielle Chanel, photograph by Henry Clarke, published in Vogue France, 1954. Paris Musées. © Henry Clarke, Paris Musées / Palais Galliera / ADAGP. Copyright Agency, 2021

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“There is no bigger name in 20th-century fashion design than Gabrielle Chanel. Her originality, timelessness and elegance forged a radically modern vision of fashion and a singular style,” said Tony Ellwood, director of the National Gallery of Victoria, when announcing the exhibition. “Gabrielle Chanel. Fashion Manifesto will be expansive, visually sumptuous and will reveal the achievements and enduring legacy of the extraordinary French fashion designer.”

Gabrielle Chanel. Fashion Manifesto debuted last year at the Palais Galliera in Paris and its stint at the NGV marks the collection’s first international foray. The exhibition opens on 5 December 2021 to coincide with the gallery’s highly anticipated annual NGV Gala on 4 December.

Featuring pieces drawn from the Palais Galliera and the Patrimoine de Chanel in Paris, as well as loans from major public museums and private collections, the exhibition includes chic suiting and, of course, little black dresses along with Chanel’s iconic accessories, such as the instantly recognisable No°5 perfume and 2.55 bag.

Chanel garments at the Gabrielle Chanel Fashion Manifesto Exhibition
Image (left to right): Gabrielle Chanel (designer) Ensemble with dress and jacket c. 1926–27 silk canvas. Patrimoine de CHANEL, Paris. Photo © Julien T. Hamon and Gabrielle Chanel (designer) Dress spring–summer 1960 embroidered cotton tulle, lamé, organdie. Palais Galliera, Paris. Gift of Chanel. Photo © Julien T. Hamon.

“Gabrielle Chanel devoted her long life to creating, perfecting and promoting a new kind of elegance 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,” said Miren Arzalluz, director of Palais Galliera and co-curator of the exhibition. “That was her fashion manifesto, a legacy that has never gone out of style.”

Gabrielle Chanel. Fashion Manifesto will be at the NGV International from 5 December 2021 to 25 April 2022. Book your tickets now at the National Gallery of Victoria.

Hero image: Anne Sainte-Marie in a Chanel suit, photograph by Henry Clarke. Copyright Agency, 2021.

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