If you’d pick perfume over pumpkins and costume jewellery over what-to-wear costume dramas any day of the year, why not immerse yourself in the Saatchi Gallery’s oasis of calm and couture this Halloween weekend? Set in a specially designed – and, on a crisp Autumn evening, rather magical – ‘seasonal English garden’, complete with synthetic birdsong (which you’ll spend a good while meandering whilst waiting to be admitted – be patient; it’s worth it), Mademoiselle Privé, masterminded by current Chanel incumbent Karl Lagerfeld, is not to be missed.
More art installation than fashion exhibition per se, and all the more captivating for it, the exhibition takes in everything from film to conceptual perfumery as it wends its way through the building. Most stunning of all, though, is the finesse with which it makes a virtue of that oft-bemoaned curse of our times – the compulsion to experience everything through the lens of an iPhone. The free Mademoiselle Privé app, accessible via the gallery’s free wifi, is a truly integral component of the exhibition. Turn your bluetooth on and it’ll zap new content and tools at you as you enter each new space, making for the most seamless and ingenious integration of digital technology with overall experience I’ve come across in any context. Not to say you won’t enjoy the exhibition if your smart phone’s out of juice, but you will miss out on taking a cheeky virtual tour of Gabrielle Chanel’s actual apartment whilst those around you stare at the whitewashed walls of her downstairs boutique in blissful ignorance… and forget simply snapping selfies by Coco’s workshop door like those guileless and app-less tourists – simply frame it on your screen and she’ll open it and get to work, for your personal viewing pleasure.
Any quibbles? Well, I would have loved to see more of Gabrielle’s original designs – aside from her re-issued 1932 Bijoux de Diamants collection, which elicits a good many “oohs” and “ahhs” from visitors – and necessitates regular reminders from security to keep pointy fingers clear of the security lasers – all of the actual ‘artefacts’ on display hail from the Lagerfeld era. But this exhibition is not – and is not trying to be – Savage Beauty; it’s something all its own. What would Gabrielle say of Karl’s ongoing reinterpretation of her legacy? Well, as imagined by Karl himself in the short film which closes the experience, she’s still ‘turning in her grave’ – but ‘happily’ so.
Mademoiselle Privé closes tomorrow. Visit the Saatchi Gallery at Duke of York’s HQ, King’s Road, London SW3 4RY, between 10am and 10pm today, or 10am and 8pm on Sunday. Admission is free.