Chanel Mademoiselle Privé: Part 1


In fashion, there are few names as iconic and evocative as Chanel, or a phrase as instantly recognisable as ‘Mademoiselle Privé’.

So of course, when Karl Lagerfeld opened up the private inspirations of Gabrielle ‘Coco’ Chanel to the public at the Saatchi Gallery this autumn, it was going to be an unmissable event.

And to make sure I didn’t miss anything, I had to go twice. The Mademoiselle Privé exhibition had a short run of just three weeks, so I felt I should make the most of it.
My first visit was with my Mini-Me. Charlotte and I went along on the first Saturday, and the queue was already halfway across Duke of York Square when we arrived at 9.30am (doors opened at 10am).
Luckily Charlotte was booked onto a special workshop, so we took advantage of a cheeky queue jump and headed straight to the top floor.

The workshops were, for me, one of the most interesting aspects of the exhibition. It’s not every day you get a mini-masterclass in couture from Chanel’s own craftspeople, after all …

Charlotte was meeting the lovely people from Lemarié, the atelier which crafts thousands of intricate camellias and feather decorations for Chanel each season, like these …

Literally some of the most incredible craftsmanship I’ve ever seen in the flesh. It was genuinely quite humbling to be in the presence of these pieces, and the people who have spent thousands of hours patiently creating them.

The lovely Sophie from Lemarié explained to Charlotte how she was going to create her own masterpiece from colourful plastic and organza flowers.

With gluing and sticking on the agenda, Charlotte didn’t need asking twice …

She so enjoyed the experience that she told Sophie she wished it could be her job. Sophie explained that she’d spent five years studying decorative arts in order to work for Lemarié, and told Charlotte she’d have to move to Paris. Which I think Charlotte would be fine with, actually …

Charlotte was very proud of her finished panel – pretty impressive, wouldn’t you agree? Sophie carefully framed it and boxed it up for her so we could go and enjoy the rest of the Mademoiselle Privé exhibition – slightly backwards, as we worked our way down from the top floor.

We peeked in at the other workshops: these were some of the embroidery panels on display in the Lesage workshop.
And we discovered the secret garden, which when viewed from above …
… revealed the famous Chanel double C.
We got up close and personal with some incredible Chanel haute couture archive pieces …

… before Charlotte imagined herself in Coco’s shoes in front of the painstakingly recreated model of the famous mirrored staircase at 31 Rue Cambon.

Sadly, we weren’t allowed to sit on the staircase, as the Mademoiselle Privé herself would have done during shows …

Still, further discoveries awaited us around the corner, in the adorably animated recreation of Chanel’s first boutique at Deauville.

And then, another iconic image … A recreation of Coco Chanel’s studio door, marked ‘Mademoiselle Privé’, from which the exhibition takes its name.

Can you just imagine the people that have knocked at this door?

Charlotte was suitably impressed by the gigantic model of the Constellation necklace, spinning endlessly in its mirrored cage …

The hall of Totems was the next stop – a room of intriguing and sometimes bizarre shrines to the codes of the house of Chanel. Pearls naturally took the spotlight …

… alongside other, less obvious influences.

Then we took a wander through a maze of floating fabrics in white and then black – a textural feast for the senses, interspersed with more cute animations.

Apparently this is the place to come for a spare strap for your 2.55 …

By the time we’d found our way out, all the excitement had gotten too much and a certain small person was hungry … So we made our way out into the Square and snaffled some goodies at the Saturday market.

Though not before one last pose (you’ll note the deliberate choice of monochrome outfit) …

Stay tuned for part 2, coming soon!