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Inside the Chanel Mademoiselle Privé Exhibition in Shanghai

By Bianca Husodo

 
Mademoiselle Privé Shanghai

Held at Shanghai’s West Bund Art Center — a former aircraft factory that’s now the megalopolis’ largest art hangar at over 6,000 square metres — the travelling Mademoiselle Privé exhibition expands its universe. The exhibition runs from 20 April till 2 June.

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Mademoiselle Privé Shanghai

Chinese singer-actress Zhou Xun posing with a remake of the storied 31 Rue Cambon creation studio door.

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Mademoiselle Privé Shanghai

Three stairways which lead to the three product-dedicated rooms: the 31 Rue Cambon room for haute couture; the Grasse room for the Chanel N°5 perfume; and the 18 Place Vendôme for high jewellery.

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Mademoiselle Privé Shanghai

Inside the 31 Rue Cambon room, a reincarnation of the desk in the historic “creation studio” replete with Karl Lagerfeld’s sketches.

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Mademoiselle Privé Shanghai

At the crux of the exhibition, and Chanel itself, is the haute couture. Late creative director Karl Lagerfeld lent Gabrielle’s vision with a modern sensibility, translating it with materials traditionally deemed unorthodox for couture: aluminium, neoprene, siliconised lace, stitchless 3D tweed.

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Mademoiselle Privé Shanghai

Wood was central to the Spring/Summer ’16 haute collection. As a homage to nature, Lagerfeld proposed light, classic silhouettes rendered in embroideries made of mixed beads, crystals and sequins interweaved with shavings, as well as marbles and fragments of wood.

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Mademoiselle Privé Shanghai

In 1932, Gabrielle Chanel was the first couturier to create high jewellery. Her inaugural jewellery collection, the “Bijoux de Diamants”, was also her last. The 18 Place Vendôme room is an enclave of the its modernised re-editions.

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Mademoiselle Privé Shanghai

Ever the forward-thinker, Gabrielle Chanel designed the “Bijoux de Diamants” with versatility and lightness in mind. She eradicated fastenings and apparent settings. The re-edition of the collection pays tribute to that exact sensibility: most of the jewellery is transformable, where a necklace can be halved into a brooch or a bracelet.

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Mademoiselle Privé Shanghai

Since its creation nearly a century ago, the Chanel N°5 has been an unrefuted icon. In the Grasse room, witness the assiduous making of the perfume, which requires a blended bouquet of 80 different scents — May rose, jasmine, ylang ylang, sandalwood and so on.

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Mademoiselle Privé Shanghai

Visitors can join in a 30-minute workshop led by the artisans of House of Lesage, a feted embroidery house, to try their hand at the embroidery work of Chanel’s Métiers d’Art houses. Other upcoming workshops include classes in gold leaf application on jewellery (4–17 May) and the art of baudruchage (18 May–2 June), an intricate technique of hand-sealing a perfume bottle.

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Following a worldwide tour that has made stops in London, Seoul and Hong Kong, the travelling Mademoiselle Privé exhibition now lands in Shanghai. Opened on 20 April, the immersive wonderland finds a home at the West Bund Art Center’s sprawling 6,000 square metre hangar. Within, its universe is dissected into three rooms, each a representative of an emblematic address linked to the house’s three pioneering products: 31 Rue Cambon for haute couture; Grasse, the French Riviera town, for the Chanel N°5 perfume; and 18 Place Vendôme for high jewellery.

Acolytes of the brand would be more than familiar with the first: 31 Rue Cambon. The fabled address to the very-first boutique Gabrielle Chanel herself opened in 1918, it’s the main brick-and-mortar artery to Chanel’s existence. Upstairs the 18th-century shophouse is a door — hung on its front is the phrase Gabrielle coined, “Mademoiselle Privé”, which laid foundation to the exhibition’s title — that leads to the “creation studio”: a creative laboratory of sorts where Gabrielle, and then later on Karl Lagerfeld, sat to mastermind the season’s next haute couture offering.

Through this exhibition, the essence behind the locked doors of Chanel’s studio is exhibited for the first time. The experiential feast brings visitors to journey through Gabrielle’s early couture creations as well as Karl Lagerfeld’s modern interpretations to its intricate high jewellery artisanship and the making of the iconic Chanel N°5. Above, a quick tour through Chanel’s Mademoiselle Privé extravaganza.

The Mademoiselle Privé exhibition in Shanghai runs until 2 June at the West Bund Art Center. Book your visit via WeChat here.