Take a look inside the enchanting world of Mademoiselle Chanel with the Second Floor photography exhibition at the Saatchi Gallery
Chanel: is there any better word in fashion’s lexicon? It is ubiquitous. It is all-encompassing. It is, quite simply, a legacy. Chanel is luxury, fantasy and sheer creative magic all wrapped up in a tweed and double interlocking “C”-adorned package. Since 1909 the house of Chanel has been consistently designing pieces of wearable art that are eerily accurate reflections of society’s overarching state of mind. Today the fashion house bearing its founder, Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel’s name is one of, if not the, world’s most recognisable brands.
Following Coco Chanel’s 62-year reign over the label, creative polymath Karl Lagerfeld assumed his current post as the brand’s head designer and creative director in 1983. Now, his designs and runway shows are monumental spectacles, embodying Coco Chanel’s belief that “Fashion is not something that exists in dresses only. Fashion is in the sky, in the street, fashion has to do with ideas, the way we live, what is happening.” Lagerfeld’s most recent ready-to-wear SS14 and AW14 collections — first shown on art gallery and supermarket runway sets, respectively — are visual representations of his observations on the notion of artefact. In these two lines, fashion’s “Kaiser” questions the bounds of the concept of artefact by making banal objects — like those found in a supermarket, for example — covetable items, using the Chanel name to demonstrate the value of objects is derived from their brand associations. A satirical take on consumer culture, no doubt.
In honour of the label’s history and profound impact on fashion and greater society in general, British photographer Sam Taylor-Johnson has recently pointed her lens towards the Parisian designer’s exclusive 31 Rue Cambon residence. The 45-photograph series, Second Floor will be exhibited this year at London’s Saatchi Gallery from 12-22 September, and depicts Coco Chanel’s eternally stylish apartment. “The essence of Chanel is firmly rooted in all of her possessions, and I truly believe that her spirit and soul still inhabits the second floor,” says the Turner Prize nominee. “It feels like she had meticulously chosen every object.”
Beyond the renowned, mirrored staircase, Taylor-Johnson’s photographs capture Chanel’s intimate world: one that was filled with white satin-covered bergères; rock-crystal chandeliers subtly displaying the label’s renowned number 5, double “C” and camellia emblems; leather-bound copies of written works by Voltaire, Byron and Brontë; and various talismans that were of symbolic significance to the Parisian designer.
After viewing Second Floor, Taylor-Johnson’s arresting images that hint at Coco Chanel’s inner workings will undoubtedly inspire even cynics to secure their own piece of Chanel. But if the French fashion house’s designs are a little out of your price range, at least there is a limited edition box set of 10 of the exhibit’s prints and the Second Floor book available for purchase at Saatchi Store. They alone will be ample inspiration to heed the fashion legend’s words, “In order to be irreplaceable one must always be different.”
Words: Steph King