On a drizzly Monday midday, I headed to the Saatchi Gallery just off King’s Road to see the new Chanel exhibition, The Little Black Jacket, by Karl Lagerfeld and Carine Roitfeld. In essence, its premise was very simple: lots of famous figures in the arts world (from modelling and acting to fashion design and film directing) wearing a classic black Chanel jacket, each in their own inimitable way.
Upon climbing to the first floor of the gallery (where the exhibition was housed), the first thing that I saw was a short biography of Karl Lagerfeld, who impressed me by being responsible for the photography of all 109 celebrities in the exhibit (which spanned 3 rooms). Neither did I know that so early in his career (which has spanned a lot longer than I had initially assumed) had he been highly placed in a competition by the International Wool Secretariat. At this point, I must confess something – one of my early ideas for an article (which I subsequently aborted) for this blog was to discuss whether Karl Lagerfeld’s Chanel had strayed too far from the original brand as headed by Coco Chanel. But as I researched, I in fact found that his work with the brand had definitely taken into account the history and characteristics of Chanel, even as they had been reinterpreted in a modern way. It would thus appear that once again, my knowledge of Karl Lagerfeld needs to be boosted!
Anyway, Lagerfeld certainly knows how to take a good picture. All the shots were monochrome, and the lighting of the rooms was appropriately muted, giving the exhibition an intimate and sophisticated feel. While some of the muses’ poses were more alluring than others (it was fairly easy to tell the models and actors – professionals in front of the camera – apart from those figures who are not so used to having their pictures taken), they all caught the eye and piqued the interest of the visitor. Both men and women were represented (which was nice to see), and some of the more recognisable names included Joshua Jackson, Milla Jovovich, Uma Thurman, Vanessa Paradis, Jane Birkin (+ her famous bag), Lauren Hutton, Baptiste Giabiconi, Sofia Coppola, Linda Evangelista, Tilda Swinton, Kanye West, Lily Allen and Riccardo Tisci.
A few of the portraits were somewhat annoying in their hipsterish pandering: Claudia Schiffer was dressed as a maid, Elle Fanning was rocking her hippy schtick while sister Dakota was wearing blinding white foundation and apparently entering her Evan Rachel Wood phase. Meanwhile, Alexa Chung (whose fame I still have yet to fathom) was merely herself. In contrast, some of my favourite photographs included Anna Wintour (with her back to the camera):
Sarah Jessica Parker raising the jacket aloft with joyous yet regal exuberance:
and Georgia May Jagger, who looked like a sultry and sexy Guess model:
I was impressed by the exhibition, which provided much more food for thought than I had expected from the description (although it is technically correct that “a bunch of celebrities wearing the Chanel black jacket” is what it is) and was a celebration of iconic Chanel clothing; as well of fashion itself, of influential figures in the arts world, and of Lagerfeld’s dedication to the brand and talent with both clothing and a camera. The gallery gave out free posters of various exhibits from the collection, and I picked up a poster of Georgia May Jagger doing the above pose – I’m not sure what I”m going to do with the poster, but it’s a nice momento to have! In the Saatchi Gallery shop downstairs, a book documenting the exhibition is available for £60 – it looks like a beautiful tome and I am tempted by it, but my willpower is coming out on top (for now). Still, I recommend going to see the exhibition – it’s a lovely piece of work and even if you’re not terribly interested in fashion, it’s a pleasant and beautiful way to pass an hour in London.