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The Little Black Jacket


Last night I watched the season finale of Desperate Housewives, were one of characters, Lynette Scavo gave a speech at friend’s wedding and I quote; “You start looking around and thinking ‘what do I want now, what is the next thing I need to be happy?’ So you look and you look and you keep thinking you’ve found it but nothing works and the reason nothing works is because that hole in your heart you’re trying to fill is already filled. You just forgot.” Although this may have originally been implied to the love between two people, it made me think of Chanel’s Little Black Jacket. One will know it is a timeless piece, a classic and shamefully, this can be forgotten.

Look back to 1954 where Coco Chanel, the very one first imagined just one ordinary jacket that changed and shaped the future. A quote from Coco Chanel where she states: "Fashion has become a joke. The designers have forgotten that there are women inside the dresses. Most women dress for men and want to be admired. But they must also be able to move, to get into a car without bursting their seams! Clothes must have a natural shape." The importance of the Little Black Jacket is enormous that it contributed to the way women dressed themselves while Karl Lagerfeld produces each collection and indulgences in another project to perhaps to achieve what Lynette Scavo said; to fill the void that something may be missing yet nothing works. Look at it this way, the past collections that Lagerfeld has presented to the fashion industry have been nothing but an attempt to be fashion-forward and as words that can only explain “hip and cool” so the youth of today will appreciate the label much more. But why I ask?! Why does Lagerfeld have to create these large collections of pieces of clothing that just don’t feel right anymore? Instead of trying to avoid the dreaded words of “playing it safe” and being always ahead of the game, why not strip back these overfilled collections and rework it back to the staple items of clothing that are loved by all women. Embracing the brand for what it was and what it should be instead of changing it into something that it’s not. Savile Row is known worldwide for its traditional menswear bespoke tailoring. It does not need to produce mass amount of collections, need fancy runways show with overpowering set designs to get its clients to walk through the shops front door. It is the high reputation of the remarkable craftsmanship of bespoke tailoring that any right man would dream to own a suit from Savile Row which is the exact same for Chanel. Chanel has their high reputation for their beautifully crafted little jackets, comfortable dresses and casual suits for women which will always bring back loyal customers each season to purchase. So why overdo something that is so classic? “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

When I think of Chanel, I think of staple items that should be owned by every women and hanging proudly in their wardrobe. Even if it isn’t Chanel, I remember when my mum first bought a very Chanel lookalike Little Black Jacket from Zara for my little sister. It is an item that can be paired with many outfits which shows its versatility, what Chanel originally intended and this is exactly what Karl Lagerfeld has recently demonstrated. From models to actors, musicians and beyond, a very fashionable pack hit SoHo last week on Wednesday night to celebrate; Chanel’s Little Black Jacket exhibit. The world touring exhibition celebrates the iconic Little Black Jacket where over the years there have been different cuts, shapes and proportions to the jacket but yet still remains as a timeless piece. The exhibition showcases more than a hundred black and white portraits of well-known faces all wearing the timeless Little Black Jacket. These photographs are to feature in Lagerfeld’s latest book which is named after the exhibition and will be released sometime between this summer and autumn, dates are unknown as of yet. But Lagerfeld and former French Vogue editor, Carine Roitfeld (who also stars in the photographs as a modern day, Coco Chanel and perhaps one of my favourites out of the bunch) demonstrates in this exhibition, the re-imagination of the icon black tweed jacket in how it could be worn or interpreted, but not just by women but men as well as children. "The interesting thing is that one simple thing, a little jacket with four pockets, you can play so much and create 120 different types," Lagerfeld said. "It's play time with an item that is timeless." And play time it certainly was. Well-known figures such as Sarah Jessica Parker, Daphne Goeneveld, Anna Wintour, Alice Dellal, Georgia Jagger, Daphne Guinness are just some of names that feature in Lagerfeld’s book who were styled to take on a personality or the personality playing a role. A very in-demand Joan Smalls also stars in one of the photographs wearing not one but three of the Little Black Jackets. One as a bandeau top, one that is tied around her waist to form a skirt and the other placed on top of her head as a hat where she embodies the African woman. “There’s not a rule that tells you, you have to wear jacket a certain way. Everybody ties a sweater around the hips, so why not a jacket?” Lagerfeld comments.

What I love about this exhibition, it really demonstrates how special and important this jacket is. It is not like any other jacket or many other designs; it’s a jacket that has its own secrets. Each little tweed jacket is hand-stitched with silk which hides away from your knowledge, the jacket’s biggest secret: a chain. When originally designed, Chanel used the idea of a chain to help the jacket retain the shape that it was intended to be while it was fitted to the outline of the body. To this very day, Lagerfeld carries on this tradition, making Chanel the very few fashion houses to still carry out the process of lining the jackets with fine chain. But here is the shocking twist, although chain is used to retain the shape of the Chanel jacket, the panelling in the jacket makes it possible for the jacket to expand up to three sizes of the original design. It’s almost like magic or perhaps just outstanding craftsmanship. The video below shows seamstresses and pattern cutters demonstrate the process of creating one Little Black Jacket and what a mesmerizing process it is. Just to watch these women cut and sew away, creating everything by hand is amazing and gives me such joy. In a world today that we live in where goods are mainly mass produced by soulless and cold machinery, it is a breath of fresh air to watch a garment designed and made by people who have a great joy and passion for making these items of clothing. I can just imagine when it’s your first time putting on the Little Black Jacket, you’d take great pride and feel proud to be wearing Chanel’s iconic piece, knowing the hard-work and time that was put into creating your jacket. It gives me butterflies just thinking about it.

And that’s what Chanel is about. Not creating these overindulgent collections with pieces of clothing that feel like they are just trying too hard to please. It’s about craftsmanship and timelessness. As years to come, the jacket will constantly change. It will see colours come in and go out, new designers taking charge and old ones leaving and adornments and style changes to the design. But what will never change about this jacket, is it will remain; dynamic yet classic, simple yet elaborate. An iconic garment that will never be out-dated, always in demand and always will be loved. And this exhibition proves this exactly where we can all pay tribute to Coco Chanel’s classic Little Black Jacket. The exhibition will run to the 15th June and all details for the exhibition, you will find here.

Photo's and Video's Courtesy of Chanel.
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