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The Chanel Legend

Gemeentemuseum Den Haag from October 12, 2013 to February 2, 2014. The ‘Little Black Dress’, the Chanel suit and Chanel No. 5 – all still part of today’s universal fashion vocabulary.

The designs of Gabrielle ‘Coco’ Chanel (1883-1971) revolutionized the way women dressed in the 20th century. Chanel stood for elegance, style and freedom of movement. Her designs became classics and still feature in today’s fashion scene. The designer’s colorful ‘rags to riches’ life story has captivated the public for generations and remains a source of lasting inspiration. The Chanel Legend tells the fascinating story of Coco Chanel and her celebrated fashion house. The exhibition includes a range of top items, including original Chanel designs of the 1920s and ’30s, women’s suits of the 1960s and creations once worn by star clients like Marlene Dietrich, Romy Schneider and Her Majesty Queen Paola of Belgium.

In addition to original clothing designs, The Chanel Legend includes accessories and a superb selection of Chanel costume jewelry borrowed from private collections: sparkling, colorful and as chic as it comes. An original 1921 bottle of Chanel No. 5 is touchingly simple. Years later, it was this most popular perfume in the world that prompted the famous Marilyn Monroe quip: “What do I wear in bed? Why, Chanel No. 5, of course.”

Chanel’s designs have always been imitated. Her much-coveted Chanel ‘2.55’ bag is still one of the most copied handbags in the world. The designer herself saw such imitations as a huge compliment. The more women dressed ‘à la Chanel’, the happier she was. Her comment on Yves Saint Laurent’s ‘little black dresses’ illustrates her attitude: ‘Saint-Laurent has excellent taste. The more he copies me, the better taste he displays.’ In addition to the many original designs on show, The Chanel Legend includes copies produced by companies like Hague fashion house C.H. Kühne & Zn and a line-up of ‘little black dresses’ by C&A Brenninkmeijer, Max Heymans, Yves Saint Laurent, Issey Miyake, Hussein Chalayan and other designers.

The Chanel Legend offers visitors a lightning tour of the life and work Coco Chanel but also spotlights the role of Karl Lagerfeld – the iconic German designer who joined the House of Chanel in 1983 and has since breathed new life into the company by combining the Chanel legacy with the zeitgeist of the 21st century. Always respectful and ever stylish, he preserves the authentic ‘esprit’ of his illustrious predecessor. As Coco Chanel maintained, ‘fashion fades, only style remains the same’.

The exhibition is accompanied by a lavishly illustrated 376-page catalogue in Dutch, English and German (€50).The publication features photography by renowned German fashion photographer Christin Losta. To cater for younger visitors, there will also be a Dutch-language children’s book by prize-winning illustrator and author Annemarie van Haeringen (€13.95).

The Chanel Legend is an exhibition conceived by the Draiflessen Collection, Mettingen. The exhibition is currently on show in Mettingen (Germany) from April 6 to July 7, 2013, after which it will come to the Gemeentemuseum Den Haag from October 12, 2013 to February 2, 2014 before transferring to the Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe in Hamburg in the spring of 2014.

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