Spring-Summer 2011 Haute Couture
Dating back to the 18th century, rue Cambon was named after a famous French revolutionary elected to the National Convention, whose father was a fabric manufacturer.The streets in this part of Paris were built after the French Revolution. In order to make way for them, the buildings of the Couvent de la Conception convent were demolished, leaving only the Notre Dame de l’Assomption church, which still stands to this day. The edifices erected subsequently were influenced by classicism, an architectural style characterized by purity of line, rigorous proportions, symmetry and horizontal divisions. They present smooth façades and a unified sense of volume.In 1910, Gabrielle Chanel opened her hat shop, “Chanel Modes”, at Number 21 rue Cambon, in the center of Paris, only a stone's throw from Place Vendôme and rue Faubourg Saint-Honoré, in the heart of a very fashionable part of town.19th century writers such as Stendhal and Chateaubriand occasionally dwelled on rue Cambon, where Chanel would brush shoulders with renowned caricaturist George Goursat, also known as “SEM”. He created the first artistic rendering of perfume N°5.As she quickly gained recognition for her talents as a hat-maker, Gabrielle decided that she needed larger premises. In 1918, she acquired the entire building at Number 31. It was here that she invented the concept of the modern boutique: in 1921, she began displaying fashion accessories and her first perfume (N°5) to wear with her garments and hats. Later, she added jewelry and beauty products.Gabrielle Chanel claimed rue Cambon as her territory and arranged her 18th century building to suit her needs. The boutique occupied the ground floor, while the large reception room on the first floor was used to present her collections and hold fittings for Haute Couture dresses and suits. A stairway lined with mirrors led to her second-floor apartment, which was an intimately private realm filled with treasures. The third floor housed the studio, where Karl Lagerfeld works today, together with light-flooded workshops nestled below the rooftops. All of her activities, which included workshops for making jewelry, hats and sportswear, were united in this building, whose configuration has remained unchanged.During the 1920s, Chanel expanded up the street and by 1927 she occupied five buildings on rue Cambon (Numbers 23 to 31).
From as early as the 1930s, Gabrielle Chanel used a baroque decor with gilt wood paneling for her fashion shows at 31 rue Cambon. The two pilasters are 17th-century Italian sculpted caryatids, which today stand on both sides of the mirror in the dining area of Mademoiselle’s apartment.By the 1960s, only a few traces of this theatrical decor remained, the overall style having disappeared. Its spirit nevertheless endures, as seen in the catwalk design for the Spring-Summer 2011 Haute Couture show, which clearly evoked the original decor and 18th-century mirrors of Coco Chanel’s apartment.Photograph on the left by Roger Schall: fashion show at 31 rue Cambon in 1938Photograph on the right by Olivier Saillant: Haute Couture show at the Pavillon Cambon Capucines in 2011