Chanel Blockbuster set to Open in Melbourne

Gabrielle Chanel (designer) Evening dress c. 1923–26 (detail) silk crêpe, tube and diamanté embroidery, lamé, tulle embroidered with gold thread Patrimoine de CHANEL, Paris Photo © Julien T. Hamon

Fashionistas are in for a treat with the fabulous fashions starring in Gabrielle Chanel. Fashion Manifesto set to open in December at Melbourne’s NGV.

It  is the first exhibition in Australia to exclusively focus on the significant contribution to twentieth-century fashion culture by the renowned French couturière Gabrielle
Chanel who died in 1971.

This major exhibition is presented by the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) in
partnership with the Palais Galliera, the preeminent fashion museum of the City of Paris, and will be launched on Saturday 4 December 2021 with the popular black-tie event, the NGV Gala.

The exhibition premiered in Paris in autumn 2020 and makes its international debut
at the National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne, Australia.

Anne Sainte-Marie in a Chanel suit, photograph by Henry Clarke, published in Vogue US, 1955, retouched by ARCP. Paris Musées. © Henry Clarke, Paris Musées / Palais Galliera / ADAGP. Copyright Agency, 2021

Gabrielle Chanel. Fashion Manifesto was developed by the Palais Galliera, with outstanding loans from the Direction du Patrimoine de CHANEL, the
fashion house’s heritage department, and is curated by Miren Arzalluz and Véronique Belloir, respectively the Director and Head of Collections of the museum.

With more than 230 garments, accessories and jewellery pieces drawn from the rich holdings of the Palais Galliera and the Patrimoine de CHANEL in Paris, complemented by important loans from major public museums and private collections, Gabrielle Chanel. Fashion Manifesto showcases the impressive breadth of Gabrielle Chanel’s output and her design codes.

The Melbourne presentation also features several designs from the NGV Collection, including recent, never-before-seen acquisitions generously gifted by
Krystyna Campbell-Pretty AM and Family, including an embroidered organdie evening dress, spring summer 1933 and spectacular shirred red silk velvet and marabou-lined Evening cape, c. 1924–26.

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA – JULY 14: During the announcement of Gabrielle Chanel. Fashion Manifesto at National Gallery of Victoria on July 14, 2021 in Melbourne, Australia. The exhibition will be on display at NGV International in Melbourne from 5 December 2021 to 25 April 2022. (Photo by Kim Landy/Getty Images for NGV)

Considered to be one of the most celebrated designers of the twentieth century, Gabrielle Chanel introduced a language of modernity into fashion that still resonates today.

With the opening of her first fashion boutique in Deauville in 1912, then her couture house on 31 Rue Cambon in Paris in 1918, Chanel began to reform women’s wardrobes by creating a new code of dress that privileged comfort, function and
elegance, and responded to the growing desire for greater social freedoms among women.

Chanel’s designs offered a restrained luxury that rejected ornamentation and, above all else, allowed women to move with ease. She pioneered the use of jersey and tweed, drawing inspiration from menswear and sportswear conventions, and championed the ‘little black dress’ and the suit as liberating modes of dress for women.

Unfolding across several chronological and thematic sections, Gabrielle Chanel. Fashion Manifesto explores Chanel’s design codes through a visually arresting and sumptuous display of more than 100 garments that trace her remarkable career.

These are placed alongside her innovations in perfume, jewellery and accessory design. Highlights include early examples of her use of black to connote modernity
and chic; delicate lace gowns; wool jersey and tailored tweed suits; dazzling beaded garments; and bold costume jewellery.

The survey offers audiences an unprecedented opportunity to appreciate Chanel’s
significant impact on the development of womenswear throughout the twentieth century, and to consider the legacy of her designs in contemporary culture.

Minister for Creative Industries, Danny Pearson said: ‘Melbournians love their fashion so it is fitting that Gabrielle Chanel. Fashion Manifesto makes its first international debut right here in Melbourne after its premiere in Paris.

‘Exhibitions of this calibre attract visitors from right across the nation, boosting local tourism and adding to Victoria’s standing as the creative state,’ said Pearson.

Brendan McClements, Visit Victoria CEO, said: ‘Fashion lovers from around the country will flock to Melbourne for this exclusive exhibition of Chanel works, straight from its debut in Paris to Australia’s very own fashion capital.’
Tony Ellwood AM, Director, NGV, said: ‘There is no bigger name in twentieth century fashion design than Gabrielle Chanel. Her originality, timelessness and elegance forged a radically modern vision of fashion and a singular style. Gabrielle Chanel. Fashion Manifesto will be expansive, visually sumptuous and will reveal the achievements and enduring legacy of the extraordinary French fashion designer.’

Miren Arzalluz, Director, Palais Galliera and co-curator of the exhibition, said: ‘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. That was her fashion manifesto, a legacy that has never gone out of style.
‘Gabrielle Chanel’s success was based not only on the functionality, comfort and chic elegance of her designs, but also on her ability to grasp and interpret the needs and desires of the women of her time,’ said Arzalluz.

Bruno Pavlovsky, President of CHANEL Fashion and of CHANEL SAS said: ‘By bringing together all the facets of an exceptional creativity, this exhibition throws new light on Gabrielle Chanel’s stylistic legacy.

A rebel at heart, she transposed her personal needs, audacity and freedom into creations that reflected her personality and that she initially made for herself.

Her demands – comfort, functionality, simplicity – subsequently became those of all women. For the first time, fashion reflected the aspirations of women, the
changes to come in their lives and the evolution of their place in society.

Ephemeral in essence, with Gabrielle Chanel fashion became perennial. By breaking away from the standards of her time, her codes and stylistic vocabulary have endured.’


Highlights of the exhibition include rare examples of Chanel’s early daywear and her wool jersey suits, which marked a radical departure from the elaborate fashions of the Belle Epoque and Edwardian periods in France and England.

Equally captivating are the gowns associated with Chanel’s so-called ‘romantic’ period of the 1930s.
Dedicated sections of the exhibition showcase Chanel’s love and use of floral motifs – realised as printed textiles or as appliqued florets – and her skilfully manipulated lace eveningwear.

Chanel Perfume

Chanel’s innovations also included the first composite and abstract perfume, Chanel N°5, created in 1921; cosmetics and highly decorative costume jewellery that combined precious and semi-precious materials.

The exhibition also explores the design codes Chanel introduced in the 1950s, including the quilted 2.55 bag and two-tone slingback that remain closely associated with the visual language of the house.

Chanel Suits

A further highlight of the exhibition is a display of iconic Chanel suits. Debuted by Chanel in the 1910s and reintroduced after the re-opening of her haute couture house in 1954, the two or three-piece suit, in lightweight woven tweed or wool bouclé, remains a feature of the house’s collections to this day.

Popularised by the likes of First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy, Princesse Grace de Monaco and actresses such as Marlene Dietrich, Romy Schneider and Lauren Bacall, the Chanel suit quickly became the embodiment of sophistication and functionalism, defined by its tailored lines, allowance for ease of movement and comfort, and clever use of gilt buttons and braiding as means of both decoration and structure.

The Palais Galliera is a permanent fashion museum in Paris, established in 1977 in the nineteenth-century building commissioned by Duchesse de Galliera.

The museum displays exhibitions of French fashion design and costume from the eighteenth-century to the present day and has a collection of over 200,000
items. Collection highlights include garments owned by Marie-Antoinette, Louis XVII and the Empress Joséphine, and important pieces by such renowned designers as Madame Grès, Cristóbal Balenciaga, Christian Dior, Hubert de Givenchy and Yves Saint Laurent.

The low down

Gabrielle Chanel. Fashion Manifesto
NGV International | 5 December 2021 – 25 April 2022 | Admission fees apply