Mixing a classy, sophisticated cocktail-party atmosphere with bold, striking portraits of reputable actors, models and musicians – it could only be the Saatchi Gallery. Consisting of 113 black and white photographs taken by Chanel helmsman Karl Lagerfeld, the upper-level display depicts the dynamic ways Chanel’s classic tweet jacket can be worn by capturing iconic images of everyone from Daphne Guinness to Dakota Fanning. Styled by Carine Roitfeld, the images capture the versatility and graceful simplicity of the much-loved jacket and portray a deliberate message that this jacket can be worn by anyone.     

As would be expected from a Chanel fashion shoot, it is easy to be bowled over by the blinding beauty of some of the picture-perfect figures in each image. Catwalk queens such as Georgia May Jagger, with their front-cover figures, striking cheekbones and enrapturing poses grace many of the canvases, yet as well as pomp and beauty, the spectator also comes across evocative portraits of figures less associated with the fashion world. Hip Hop superstar Kanye West makes a majestic appearance whilst French actor Romain Duris strikes a notably suave pose. It seems that the Little Black Jacket is not concerned with age either and a portrait of Hudson Kroenig, Chanel’s three-year-old newbie, slashes the average age of the models considerably.  

Despite each figure on display being clothed in the same piece of jacket, the images are strikingly individual and each canvas stands up effortlessly on its own merit. Tacked to the wall without the help of frames, whichever trendy superstar you set eyes upon (and they seem to be everywhere) has their own vibrant sense of energy. This could be through more traditional shots, such as the image of Elizabeth Olsen clad in a white-laced dress with a tilt of the head that seems to reflect the curiosity of the audience. Or through more adventurous pieces of fashion photography: an image of the British model and actress China Chow emits comic vigour as she poses as a whiteface clown, caked in ghostly pale make-up and with an oversized ruffled collar. 

…all that’s missing is a bottle of champagne and a few canapés…

The presentation of the exhibition is superlative with white-washed walls and dimmed lighting reflecting the polished elegance of the photographs, but what is most of note is the lively atmosphere that is created in the gallery space. The trendy viewing demographic cast an affluent veil over the exhibition and the suited assistants that hand out free posters of some of the most prominent figures on display, adds a distinctly personal touch. As viewers snake their way around the rooms, the show buzzes as people stand, chat and discuss the works. The cocktail party atmosphere is electric and all that’s missing is a bottle of champagne and a few canapés.

Saatchi and Chanel, two of the greatest names in the creative industries, ultimately come together to create a show that leaves the viewer feeling inspired. Both artistically and as a fashion exclusive the exhibition is hugely successful and combines the iconic ability of a camera with the social vivacity of Coco Chanel’s timeless fashion label, to create a bustling must-see show.

About The Author

A University of Reading English and History of Art graduate based in London and embarking on a career in journalism.

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