From The Straits Times    |

IN SEOUL – Chanel is, without a doubt, the most well-known fashion house in the world. Its profile is down to a combination of style, history, masterful construction and future-proofing design, but more than anything, Chanel is famous because of its founder Mademoiselle Coco Chanel.

The Culture Chanel exhibitions are opportunities for people to enter into Mademoiselle’s rarified world and discover not just more about the brand, but more importantly, to learn more about what made the creative mind of its founder tick.

Culture CHANEL exhibition seoul korea SPACE

For 2014 the Culture Chanel exhibition’s theme was The Sense of Places. In an all-encompassing series of 10 sections, the various “worlds” of Mademoiselle Chanel are covered in exquisite detail – Childhood Impressions, Rules at Aubazine, The Freedom of Difference, Life at the Château, Independence in Paris, Golds of Venice, The Russian Paradox, The “Blue Train”, The New World, The Style of Chanel.

Set out over three different spaces in the spectacular Dongdaemun Design Plaza building designed by architect Zaha Hadid, there are over 500 items in the exhibition and include photographs, books, objects, manuscripts, artworks, fashion pieces from both her own collections and recent work by Karl Lagerfeld, jewellery and watches and a lot of items from the creation of Chanel No.5 perfume. There is also a film room with snippets about the brand and a “listening” room where you can hear Mademoiselle herself speaking, next to a “library” featuring books both about Chanel and from her personal collection.

Culture CHANEL exhibition seoul korea FASHION

There are pieces in this exhibition that will fascinate just about everyone. Obviously fashion lovers will be wowed by an up-close look at pieces from not only the Chanel couture collections but also original items like an actual hat created by Gabrielle Chanel from 1917, an actual Chanel tweed jacket from 1963 and an original 2.55 bag from 1955.

Culture CHANEL exhibition seoul korea ANDY WARHOL

If you’re an art lover you’ll be wowed by original works like The Ear of Wheat by Salvador Dali, three of Andy Warhol’s Chanel No.5 paintings and Jean Cocteau’s drawing of Coco Chanel as well as the other numerous items from sculptures to book-bindings.

Culture CHANEL exhibition seoul korea PHOTOS

For celebrity fans you’ll be able to spot iconic images of stars like Marilyn Monroe, Ernest Hemmingway, Arizona Muse, Freja Beha, Catherine Deneuve and more. Plus, of course, there are lots and lots of images of Mademoiselle Coco by herself and with her famous lovers like the Russian royal Grand-Duke Dimitri Pavlovitch who helped create the iconic Chanel No.5 by introducing Coco to the perfumier Ernest Beaux who’d been at court of the Tsar – part of the amazing section dedicated to that singular perfume.

The pieces that stood out to me were both small and seemingly ordinary like Mademoiselle Chanel’s birth certificate (proving she really existed) and a handwritten letter in English she sent on Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer letterhead paper in 1931. I was also blown away by the fabulous jewellery pieces in the Golds of Venice section – they are simply spectacular – but again, it was the images of Mademoiselle Chanel wearing her own early designs and borrowed-from-the-men pieces that really stood out for me.

Coco Chanel, as she became, was the first minimalist in many ways, and her elegant, practical clothes were the foundation for the way women dress today in jeans and sweats and sneakers. Without Chanel we’d still be wearing hoop skirts and corsets. For that alone, if for no other reason, Mademoiselle Coco Chanel should be remembered and celebrated. 

The Culture Chanel Exhibition in Seoul will run until October 5, 2014, at the DDP (Dongdaemun Design Plaza), 281, Eulji-ro, Jung-gu, Seoul, South Korea 100-197. For more information about Culture Chanel, go to The hashtag is #culturechanel and you can catch lots of pics from the exhibition on Instagram. Dongdaemun Design Plaza is open from 10am to 6pm every day; admission to the exhibition is free but it’s recommended that you make a reservation, go to