Chanel

Gabrielle Chanel

"A woman who doesn't wear perfume has no future. - Coco Chanel

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A couple of weeks ago I visited the Chanel Beauty counter in Selfridges Manchester. Makeup artist Lorna whispered to me while she was applying my eyeshadow, “you’re a Chanel girl aren’t you, I can tell… do you want to come to an exclusive Chanel event in a couple of weeks time?” No-brainer!

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The event was to launch Chanel’s newest scent for 15 years, Gabrielle Chanel. Hype has been building since the French fashion house revealed plans for a new fragrance earlier this year, with the scent itself being kept closely under wraps until now. A new Chanel perfume is a once in a decade event!

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The eau de perfume captures the rebellious and unconventional spirit of the founder of Chanel, giving us a glimpse of the woman behind the ‘Coco’ persona.

The brand describes, “Before she founded her House, Coco Chanel was Gabrielle. A rebel at heart, passionate and free, she fought to become the woman she wanted to be.”

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It was developed by Chanel’s in-house perfumer Olivier Polges, who also created one of my favourite all-time fragrances, Viktor and Rolf’s Flower Bomb. I had high expectations. 

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Upon arrival at the Selfridges VIP event last Thursday, I was whisked up a private lift into the personal shopping area. I was greeted by lovely Lorna who, along with some of the other makeup artists from the store, demonstrated the new autumn beauty collection before giving us a special preview of the perfume. 

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Champagne flowed freely and canapés circulated while we listened to Nora from the Chanel fashion boutique in Selfridges. She spoke us through the iconic pieces from Chanel’s history. The tweed jacket, the pearl necklace, the 2.55 handbag and finally the new Gabrielle Chanel scent. 

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Whoever said money can’t buy happiness didn’t know where to go shopping - Coco Chanel

Housed in a square glass bottle, the perfume looks similar to the iconic No.5., however, fellow Chanel geeks will notice that the Gabrielle bottle is much cleaner and is without the neck ribbon from No. 5.  It’s the thinest bottle to date and took the fashion house over 5 years to perfect.

We were allowed a quick spritz before the release on general sale the next day. The perfume smells as good as it looks. It’s pure floral, based on a bouquet of four white flowers: jasmine, ylang ylang, tuberose from grasse and orange blossom.

Much more feminine than No. 5, it isn’t overly heady so is perfect for daytime wear. 

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"'Where should one use perfume?' a young woman asked. 'Wherever one wants to be kissed,' I said. - Coco Chanel 

A promotional film featuring actress Kristen Stewart and Beyoncé was also released to coincide with the fragrance launch. It shows Stewart breaking free from what appears to be a cocoon and dancing her way into a wall of Gabrielle bottles.

Thank you very much to Lorna and the rest of the Selfridges Beauty team for inviting me along to such a special event. 

You can purchase Gabrielle Chanel here.

The Handbag Spa, Harrogate

Anyone who knows me well will testify that I’m a handbag addict. I’d always choose bags over clothes, shoes or jewellery.

“The bags under my eyes are Chanel…”

I recently took a tumble in a busy road with my favourite designer handbag on one arm and a laptop under another. Both fell in opposite directions with me landing facedown in between. When people ran to help me I told them to forget about me and help the bag instead!!!

Once I had picked myself up, my concern was not for the cuts on my legs or the laptop (which wasn’t even mine). Instead it was for my once perfect bag which now had scuff marks. My bleeding knees would heal but my grazed handbag would not. 

When I got back to work I told my friend what had happened and she suggested I sent the bag away to a spa. A spa for handbags?! I know I had taken a bad tumble but I’m pretty sure I didn’t whack my head on the way down!

My friend explained that The Handbag Spa had been featured on the tv show, Dragons Den. Founded by mother and daughter team Judy and Freya Bass, it is located in Harrogate and was set up after noticing a gap in the luxury goods market for a quality cleaning and repair service for handbags and purses. 

Judy was already established in the leather industry having worked in it for over 25 years. Freya graduated with a Degree in Fashion. With their combined knowledge of leather and fashion, the idea of repairing and treating luxury designer handbags was born. 

The Spa team can carry out cleaning treatments to leather to remove minor marks or scuffs and can even carry out full restorations, where handbags can be transformed to a completely different colour.

Intrigued, I emailed some photos of the damaged bag and was then advised what repair works were needed along with a quote. It was recommended that the technicians carry out corner and edging repairs and that the leather also be treated to remove some dye from holding the bag against my dark clothes. I also asked that some loose stitching inside be repaired. 

I bid my bag farewell and wrapped it up to be collected by courier from my home. Although it was away for 6 weeks, I was regularly updated throughout the process via email and was even sent photographs of the repairs being carried out. 

Treatments generally take between 2 and 6 weeks depending on the package chosen and, importantly, your bag is fully insured against any loss or damage. 

I’m really pleased with the results, the bag was returned to me looking brand new. I was given a leaflet and some wipes to continue with aftercare to keep it looking pristine for as long as possible.

At around £150.00, it’s not a cheap service but it’s definitely worth the investment.

thehandbagspa.com


Paris - Part Trois

Following on from Paris Part Une and Part Deux

For as long as I can remember I’ve dreamt of owning a Chanel flap bag, commonly named the 2.55. Over the years I’ve plotted and schemed ways of raising the money to buy one.

A few years ago my family even had to stage an intervention when I’d arranged to sell my beloved first car in an effort to access funds as quickly as possible, (despite me trying to convince them that me and my Chanel would be happy to travel on public transport.)  

Image by   Felipe Dolce

Image by Felipe Dolce

It wasn’t just about owning a Chanel, it was also about buying a piece of history. The first Chanel flap bag was designed by Coco Chanel and sold in February 1955, hence the name 2.55. It has since become one of the world’s most iconic and recognisable bags. Coco designed the bag with a moveable double chain strap, inspired by military costume, to allow the bag to be worn on the shoulder to free the arms. This was revolutionary for fashion.

Fashion fades, only style remains the same.
— Coco Chanel

The 2.55 is made to the exact same design today, over 60 years after it was first released, and is strictly only made in France by specialist craftsmen to keep the history of the design in Paris.

Fashion and history aside, the 2.55 is also a great investment as Chanel bags continue to rise in price every year. The iconic 2.55 never goes on sale which is why it retains its value. If you hold on to one long enough, there will be some value locked in.

For me, there was only one place to buy a Chanel. Coco started her empire at Rue Cambon. In 1910, she opened a hat shop, “Chanel Modes”, at Number 21, right in the heart of the most fashionable part of Paris. She soon outgrew the single store and so in 1918, she acquired the entire building at number 31. Here she invented the concept of the modern boutique and began selling fashion accessories and her first perfume, Chanel N°5.

31 Rue Cambon has since become the brand’s flagship store and consequently holds the best collections and some exclusive items. And so, last September, after years of dreaming of owning a Chanel, I finally visited Number 31 with my mum to buy my 30th birthday present.

The boutique attracts huge crowds every day so mum and I made sure we were there when it opened at 10.00am and were the first people to arrive. I have read many reviews of visitors saying the sales staff are rude but my experience couldn’t be further from the truth.

As soon as we entered the store a lovely lady approached us and asked if she could be of help. She spent the next 20 minutes or so bringing every colour 2.55 in the store and placing them on my shoulder to try. Eventually I decided between a black and cream. She persuaded me to go for the black and sent it into a room to be wrapped in privacy by a specialist wrapping team.

When you buy something at Chanel, your purchase isn’t just put into a bag, great care and time is taken to wrap the item in layers of Chanel embossed paper and ribbons. 

While we were waiting, the lady serving us asked if we were visiting for a special occasion, when my mum told her that it was for my 30th, she replied, in her thick Parisian accent, “ahhh, you must sit”. She then called for her colleague to fetch us some Champagne! And so mum and I sat, at 10.00am, getting tipsy in Chanel.

Rue Cambon is such a fantastic experience for anyone who loves fashion. What was once a single unit has now grown into a vast, glamorous space. There was even a lady whose job it was to walk around the store spraying the iconic Chanel N°5 perfume so that visitors had a constant whiff of Coco’s scent. I’m considering applying for that job!

Once we had finished our Champagne we were treated to a private walkthrough of the boutique including being shown the latest catwalk collection and the most expensive handbag on sale, a grey crocodile-skin bag. A snip (or should that be snap?!) at €45,000!

We were then led into a hallway to see the stores pièces de résistance, the famous mirrored staircase. This is where Coco used to sit, hidden away from the press, to view her collections being modelled below. The stairs lead to the first floor where Coco used to present her collections and hold fittings for Haute Couture. Further up the stairway is Coco’s second-floor apartment, which remains untouched to this day, full of her personal possessions. The third floor houses her studio, where Karl Lagerfeld now works, and the Chanel workshops.

After taking a few photographs on the staircase, we left the store smiling from ear to ear and holding onto my beautifully packaged bag for dear life. When I unwrapped the bag I found a personalised Chanel birthday card which was a lovely touch. 

The experience of buying a Chanel at Rue Cambon was very special and I know that my bag will be loved for decades to come. If you are lucky enough to experience Rue Cambon, I would recommend getting there early. Regardless of what day of the week it is, there is always a queue of people. Also make sure you check any tax implications. If you’re visiting from outside of the EU, there may be a tax payable which you then have to claim back so this is something to bear in mind. 

If you decide to buy a vintage Chanel, take care that you buy from a reputable seller. Authentic Chanels have a unique registration number on each bag, but, this is no guarantee of authenticity when buying second hand since some of the higher-quality fakes have imitation registration numbers and receipts. My advice would be to select an online authentication service like www.vestiairecollective.com, www.fashionphile.com or www.whatgoesaroundnyc.com.

After our amazing trip to Chanel, we decided to follow in the steps of Coco and Audrey Hepburn and take tea at Angelina. This is an elegant Parisian tearoom that has been a famous meeting place since it opened in 1903. Apparently Coco was a daily customer for a hot chocolate. She used to sit at table 10, which is positioned next to a large mirror. Her biographers have written that she used the mirrors to coyly keep an eye on the world around her (like her mirrored staircase!)

Angelina is equally as famous today for its traditional Chocolat à l’Africain, a dark hot chocolate served with whipped cream on the side. This is incredibly rich and absolute heaven for chocolate lovers. The restaurant has roots in Eastern Europe where thick, rich hot chocolate is the norm. The Rumpelmeyer family, who opened the tearoom, emigrated from Austria-Hungary to settle in the Côte d’Azur. In the late 1800s, the family had nostalgic thoughts about the tearooms they had left behind and decided to open their own in Nice. It proved to be so successful that they went on to open tearooms in Monte Carlo, Antibes and then Paris. 

The interior of the tearoom remains unaltered to this day, it is a little tired in places but this adds to the history and charm. There are marble tables, chandeliers and an abundance of mirrors which makes for a very elegant tearoom. The interior was designed by the architect, Edouard-Jean Niermans of the Belle Époque period. The walls are decorated with large paintings, each one with a link to the Rumpelmayer family. There is a large landscape painting of the French Riviera where the first Angelina opened.

The waiters are all smartly dressed in black and white and guide you to your table. As soon as we were seated, Mum and I ordered the famous l’Africain which was served in a cup and saucer along with a pitcher of steamy, thick hot chocolate. Fresh whipped cream is served on the side along to dollop into the hot chocolate to make it even creamier. 

We also chose a chocolate eclair each just to go totally overboard. The eclair was gorgeous with a chocolate centre rather than the usual whipped cream. With hindsight, we should have tried the famous Mont Blanc, the recipe of which remains a closely guarded secret after one hundred years. Essentially it is a ball of meringue covered in whipped cream and sweet chestnut!

Angelina is no ordinary tearoom, it has attracted Parisians and international visitors for decades. The Chocolat à l’Africain has been a classic since the beginning and the recipe remains unchanged. It’s well worth a visit if you’re in the city. 

As with all great places in Paris, there is usually a queue but it’s worth a wait. If you don’t want to queue, at the front of the tearoom is a shop selling Angelina’s signature pasties and hot chocolates to go. You could take your treats over to the Jardin des Tuileries which is directly opposite and a beautiful part of Paris to sit. 

This trip to Paris was more than I could have ever dreamed of, made all the more special to be accompanied with my lovely mum. What a fantastic way to enter my 30s.

Until next time Paris!

Chanel Mademoiselle Privé Exhibition at The Saatchi Gallery

During my recent trip to London, I visited The Saatchi Gallery in Chelsea to attend the Chanel Mademoiselle Privé exhibition. 



The Saatchi Gallery was opened by Charles Saatchi in 1985 to exhibit contemporary art to the public. It occupied several different premises before moving to its current location in 2008. Now housed in The Duke of York's HQ, a listed building, the Gallery is made up of 12 huge rooms set over three floors. 

It’s an ideal location, set in its own little oasis just off the Kings Road, next to Sloane Square. Inside the Gallery is minimalist with glass stairwells and expansive white walls throughout. It’s said to be one of the most beautiful art spaces in London, the perfect setting to showcase one of the most iconic brands of today. 


Source: Chanel


The exhibition was named Mademoiselle Privé after the sign that Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel frequently placed on the door of her atelier so that she could work undisturbedCapturing her spirit perfectlyeach room of the Saatchi Gallery was transformed to take visitors on a journey through the rich history of the House of Chanel, including Haute Couture, the "Bijoux de Diamants" jewellery collection and the iconic CHANEL N°5 perfume.

A few days before we visited, the Gallery hosted a private party to celebrate the launch of the exhibition. It was a star-studded affair with actresses Julianne Moore and Clémence Poésy in attendance as well as models Cara Delevingne and Laura Bailey. Long-term muse Vanessa Paradis and the new generation of Chanel ladies, including Lily-Rose Depp and Lily Collins, also turned out to support Karl Lagerfeld at the opening.


Source: Chanel


Upon entering the Gallery we were immediately greeted with a reconstruction of the fabulous mirrored staircase in Chanel’s Rue Cambon store in Paris. It is on this Parisian staircase that Coco would sit, hidden, to observe the reactions of the audience to her collections. 

We were then taken room by room through the key moments in Coco's life including the opening of her Deauville hat shop and photographs of the summers she spent in Scotland which inspired her love of tweed. The colour red (worn on the lips, it became Gabrielle’s signature colour), camellias (Coco’s favourite flower, apparently after one was given to her by her lover) and wheat (her lucky charm, symbolising prosperity and creativity) were common themes throughout.

A large room representing Chanel No 5 had a futuristic feel with gold-lidded wells containing each of the perfume’s individual ingredients such as jasmine and May rose, leaving the vast room filled with the individual scents that still make up the perfume today, nearly 100 years after it was first released.

There were photographs taken by Karl Lagerfeld of actresses Julianne Moore, Keira Knightly and Lily Collins all wearing the designer’s one-off creations and diamond jewels from Bijoux de Diamants. Only a few pieces remain from the original collection today. It was supposed to have been displayed from the first time in London in 1932 but was stopped due to stringent British customs regulations. This exhibition finally saw it unveiled after 83 years with the entire collection recreated especially.

Items worn at the Chanel couture show last July were displayed, protected by infrared laser alarms that activate if a visitor got too close (speaking from experience). All the pieces on show were made in the Chanel workshop above the Place Vendôme store in Paris. 

Big on sensory experience, another room was filled with huge drapes of different fabrics from the Chanel atelier, allowing visitors to touch and wander through real Chanel couture fabrics including delicate silks and the famous bouclé tweeds.

A short film directed by Lagerfeld was also featured showing a feisty Coco, played by actress Geraldine Chaplin (daughter of Charlie Chaplin), waking on the sofa of her Parisian apartment. After forty years of sleeping she confronts Lagerfeld about how he has continued her legacy. “What do you think you are doing?” she demands, “I am keeping you alive” he replies.

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For a brand that still has not wholly embraced e-commerce, the exhibition was cleverly complemented by the Mademoiselle Privé app which visitors could download and use throughout to bring the show to life. Lifting a smartphone or iPad in front of the mirrored staircase, for example, would transport you to Paris for a virtual tour of Coco’s private apartment at number 31 Rue Cambon.

Unfortunately Mademoiselle Privé only ran for three weeks. This was the third such exhibition for Chanel at the Saatchi Gallery following the success of “The Little Black Jacket” in 2012 and Sam Taylor-Johnson’s photographs of Coco’s private apartment in 2014. Hopefully it won’t be the last. 

www.saatchigallery.com

Duke Of York's HQ, King's Rd, London SW3 4RY

Admission to The Saatchi Gallery is free to all visitors.