“The best things in life are free. The second best things are very, very expensive.”
– Gabrielle Chanel
Gabrielle Chanel could not have understood so many of us and summed it up better.
I found out about the CHANEL Mademoiselle Privé exhibit at the Saatchi Gallery in London on the opening day (13 Oct) by chance on Twitter. Vogue UK had a promoted tweet and I was curious to learn more about the exhibit. Most exhibits are by admission so I was quite surprised that CHANEL had put on a free exhibit for everyone from 13 Oct – 1 Nov. CHANEL = very, very expensive. Exhibit = free. 🙂
I visited the exhibit the following day on the 14th around 4pm though I should have gone earlier in the day when most visitors would be working or in class. There was a bit of a queue but I went through the main doors within half an hour. I was outside the gate for 15 minutes, went through the Coco-inspired garden, and waited before the doors for another 10-15 minutes. Prior to entering the gallery, I downloaded the Mademoiselle Prive app (free, worldwide) so that I could navigate each room. Eventually, I stopped using the app and focused on taking photos.
I will point out a few highlights with photos but leave the rest for you to discover!
- There are 2.5 rooms that represent ‘a day in Coco’s life’. The first room reminds visitors of the ground floor in the 31 rue Cambon (I have not been yet) with the famous staircase, the mirrors, and the white orchids. The floor was unbelievably smooth that I could have skated on my ballerinas from one end to the other.
- The second room was a recreation of Gabrielle Chanel‘s first hat shop.
For those of you who don’t know, Chanel began as a milliner (this I learned from my hat instructor, The Saucy Milliner, who is now based in Toronto, Canada). I really liked the use of multimedia in the room, with an animated Chanel walking up and down the stairs, outside the window, and putting on pearls in front of a dressing table.
- An enlarged cage containing an equally enlarged version of her 1932 constellation diamond necklace
- No5: These vats containing colourful liquid represent different floral scents but sadly are actually odourless.
- Sensory Room: If you can’t afford CHANEL, you’ll have the chance to touch the fabric. Just close your eyes and pretend you’re wearing a couture piece. 😉
- Haute Couture: delicate items on lit mannequin forms
- Bijoux de Diamants: haute couture paired with the diamond jewellery collection, as well as portraits of CHANEL models wearing them.
There is a film room inside the diamond room which I highly recommend. I’ve often wondered what Gabrielle Chanel would think of CHANEL today if she were still alive. Would she approve? Would she be aghast? I hope the video will eventually be uploaded to the CHANEL Youtube channel. It’s a really well-made short of an imagined conversation between Chanel (played by Geraldine Chaplin) and Karl Lagerfeld.
- French Garden: a tranquil room with hedges in woven patterns
2nd Floor: Workshops
Please note that these three workshops on Lesage, Lemarie, and No 5 may only be booked online or via the app.
Silly me. At the time I visited the exhibit, there were still plenty of spaces for all three of the workshops for the following week (23rd). I thought I would go home and join later. The spaces were quickly snapped up and though I checked each morning, all three were fully booked, even for children!
The Best Free Gift
I am never going to be able to afford a CHANEL anything. So to receive a free cotton tote and a print of Karl Lagerfeld’s illustration of Gabrielle Chanel’s signature look was the best surprise!
This is the FINAL week of the exhibit so don’t delay! The hours have now been extended (please see below):