Focused on one classic little black jacket (LBJ) personalised ad infinitum in the Chanel ateliers to the dimensions and wishes of the personalities wearing it, the exhibition aims to show, through pictures styled by Carine Roitfeld and shot by Karl Lagerfeld, the eternal elegance, staying power and versatility of the garment.
In London, the Little Black Jacket is showed at the Saatchi gallery, a fitting space for a project which holds more to grandiose marketing and the desire to create buzz than straight ‘art’. The pictures and the quality of their printing might be beautiful, but the concept linking them feels tenuous.
The exhibition could be split into two categories: the people who wear the jacket as they would in their daily life, and the ones, mostly models, who wear it styled, fashion editorial-like.
Rather than Lulu Gainsbourg wearing his father trademark white Zizi shoes, Sofia Coppola in a stripy t-shirt or Alice Dellal complementing her LBJ with a studded leather jacket, I would have liked to see Roitfeld style them in an unexpected way, challenging not only their style, but also her own styling.
As for the more fashion editorial pictures, Freja Beha Erichsen wearing the jacket nun-like is reminiscent of POP’s Autumn September 2008 issue. Men wearing an LBJ have already been done, say for the March 2009 issue of Paris Vogue tribute to Coco Chanel, in an editorial photographed by Lagerfeld and styled by Roitfeld (already).
If I stopped for long in front of any picture, it wasn’t because I was taken aback by an unexpected styling choice or photographic angle but rather to rack my brain trying to remember which fashion editorial a pose or a garment reminded me of. The only possible exception was Roitfeld, who dressed herself as Coco Chanel, in a move which could either be seen as tongue-in-cheek or self-aggrandising.
A sure crowd pleaser, the exhibition was a safe move by Chanel, which has so far guaranteed the brand thousands of mentions on social media and in the press, multiplied every time the show moves to a new city. I did not expect anything radical from the exhibition, considering it was staged by Chanel itself, but a little more imagination would have suggested that in addition to lasting that long, the little black jacket has a long life ahead.
All photos from The Little Black Jacket Chanel exhibition