Gabrielle Chanel. Fashion Manifesto is the first UK exhibition dedicated to the work of Gabrielle ‘Coco’ Chanel. The lighting design is key to allow visitors to appreciate the objects with their exquisite details in close viewing – achieved at low conservation light levels whilst creating wider luminous, elegant layered lightscapes.

We wanted the objects to be experienced under subtly shifting light treatments, moving through the sections from morning to night time in exterior, interior, rural and urban contexts.

With 200 hundred objects of fashion, textile, accessories and photography, such sensitive works required careful choreography to create a varied visual journey.
Visiotrs enter through a black lacquered portal with a crisp cool illuminated ceiling; drawing them in and setting a fresh pallet for experiencing the exhibition.

Section 1/ Lit as start of the day with subtle warm tones; objects are framed in portals of diffused light. Softly lit panels have concealed lighting around the frame as fresh halos of focus.

Section 2 / The first collection of archival garments are set in a series of four distinctly lit collections of showcases.

1 – Lit as an abstracted garden, dappled light moves behind garments to evoke a scene of late morning. Key light for objects is concealed in the soffits
2 – Tweeds are displayed in a scene inspired by misty highland afternoons using a diffused lightscape of subtle blue light tones washing the horizon to define the objects. Soft wash of front light renders objects.
3 – An evening setting of high contrast, shadow play and side lights evokes a scene as if from wings of a stage performance.
4 – Evening twilight, black textures are expressed with hints of silver and gold soft blacklight coves. A mix of cool and warm key light picks out object embellishments.

Section 3 / This is a bright diffused space with golden refracted light as if emanating from the iconic Chanel perfume bottle. The central glass volume with floating content is imbued with a diffuse light from illuminated panels top and bottom. It features slowly rotating facets in the glass top emanating refracted soft gold and silver light effect by projecting white light.

Section 4 / The glamorous collection is viewed through scenographic arches. Projected A/V of a dusk time light passing through trees is complemented by dynamic dappled light on the floor achieved with DMX programmed beamshapers and gobos.

Section 5 / A luminous evenly lit display was designed for the Chanel suits. For this double height display we designed light panels for tops of showcases wrapped in fabric acting as light diffusers, rendering colour and form. A bespoke uplight detail concealed within the bottom of the cases to provides another layer of light rendering the fabrics.

Section 6 / A high contrast space with glowing objects and lit apertures reflected in the dark gloss showcased leather accessories.

Section 7 / In a dreamlike move from dusk to sunset, shafts of light punctuate rhythmed scenography opening up into the heightened gold landscape with sparkling gold fabrics.

Section 8 / A magical jewellery box display has glowing objects inset in dark cases, creating sparkle and wonder. A golden path creates a luminous flow through the space.

Finale / In a glamorous interior night scene, the ceiling echoes moonlight via a large fabric chandelier.

Moving light sources create a downward sense of movement on the stairs echoing the descents shown in archive footage. The elegant display brought to life with soft shimmering light reflected in finishes; creates a sense of an event.
The visitor leaves the nightscape returning to the monochrome simplicity of the first section with diffused light planes.

Additional credits

V&A Exhibition Curator: Oriole Cullen
V&A Exhibition Project Curators: Connie Karol Burks & Stephanie Wood, the entire extended V&A exhibitions team
Graphic Design: The Bon Ton
AV Software Production: Luke Halls
Sound Design: Coda to Coda
Contractor: Setworks
AV Hardware: Blue Elephant
Graphics Production: Omni Graphics
Technical Project Management and Quantity Surveyor: Focus Consultants

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