In China, the House of Chanel is trying to insert a personality into its little black dress: its founder. In fashion circles, Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel’s design legacy is widely celebrated. Her story, of a French orphan girl who grew up to dress the likes of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, is among the most famous in style. Inspired by — and an inspiration to — artists from Pablo Picasso to Igor Stravinsky, Mlle Chanel created enduring designs, including the little black dress.
But her tale isn’t well known in China, the world’s budding luxury market (analysts at CLSA Asia-Pacific Markets say it will drive half the industry’s growth over the next decade). For prospective Chinese customers who missed seeing French actress Audrey Tautou in the 2009 film “Coco Before Chanel,” the foundations of the House of Chanel may be as ambiguous as the brand name is in Mandarin — Xiang Nai Er, which means little more than “fragrant” in English.
Now, “Culture Chanel,” a show organized by the fashion house that runs through March 14 at the Museum of Contemporary Art Shanghai (Moca), aims to introduce Coco Chanel. The exhibition, of 400 items including designs by Chanel as well as things that inspired her, offers a peek into her psyche — and it may offer a better excuse for spending thousands of dollars on a genuine outfit, rather than a fake.
Coco Chanel is my idol! My mother and I along with my best friend attended the Chanel exhibition party and the actual exhibit several times at the Metropolitan Museum of Art! I bought all of the books and several of the accessories.