CHANEL NEWS

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31 RUE CAMBON
THE STORY BEHIND THE FACADE

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).

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HISTORY OF A DECOR

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 1938

Photograph on the right by Olivier Saillant: Haute Couture show at the Pavillon Cambon Capucines in 2011

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HAUTE COUTURE, HAUTE CULTURE...
BY ELISABETH QUIN

Haute Couture is woven from dreams, gold, hard work, and excellence. It is an ode to the artisans of luxury, a willed madness, a fabulous dinosaur, and a glittering Atlantis that dazzles us twice a year, bringing reassurance that in a globalized world of robotic manufacturing, a sanctuary still remains, a place where clothes are lovingly created by hand over hundreds, even thousands of hours.
The term "Haute Couture" may be legally restricted, but its poetic inspiration knows no bounds!
Today in France, Haute Couture continues to sustain artisans, workshops and suppliers who pass on their unique specialist skills to new generations. Chanel has acquired and fused several of these rare workshops together, such as embroidery from Lesage and feather work from Lemarié, ensuring that their knowledge is handed down and their artistic crafts survive.
Haute Couture is a French national treasure, yet it was invented by an Englishman, Charles Worth, at the time of Napoleon III. Barely a century after it had beheaded its king, France quickly understood that luxury could act as an inimitable ambassador for French expertise.
After Worth, couturiers such as Callot, Patou, Poiret, Vionnet and Lanvin continued to dress women beautifully, without always taking the shape of their bodies into account…
At that moment, Gabrielle Bonheur Chanel, known as Coco, arrived on the scene with her hands in her pockets and a cigarette between her lips. She was surrounded by an air of nonchalance, eternal allure and insane elegance in her wonderfully fluid jersey suits and dresses, which went on to represent a real liberation for women. It seemed a natural step but someone had to invent it, someone had to have the confidence and the talent to understand what women wanted, longed for, even before they knew it themselves. Was Chanel a revolutionary, a prophet? Absolutely!

The Chanel Spring-Summer 2011 Haute Couture collection has created a dazzling bridge between the 1920s and the 21st century.
Low waists, slender busts and delicate feet encased in ballerina shoes with transparent ribbons have been combined with the colors of clouds or pearls and waves of shimmering spangles, while embroidered shirts have been paired with Couture jeans that lengthen the legs to infinity... It is a younger look that is lighter than ever, rejecting any kind of bourgeois heaviness. The collection is characterized by total grace and luxurious materials that make their mark with skilled understatement, recapturing a style that came as second nature to Coco Chanel…

Photo: Benoît Peverelli

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OFF THE CATWALK

Spring-Summer 2011 Haute Couture show, Pavillon Cambon Capucines, Paris

Photos: Delphine Achard

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CELEBRITIES REVIEW

Celebrities at the Spring-Summer 2011 Haute Couture show
Pavillon Cambon Capucines, Paris, January 25th

Photos: Delphine Achard

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