Chanel’s Little Black Jacket – A Classic Revisited

The black jacket was originally a staple of men’s wardrobes around the world; after all, nothing says classic like a black suit jacket. However, with time and a little help from Coco Chanel herself, the black jacket has crept into women’s wardrobes everywhere. It is versatile, wearable and a wardrobe essential.

This joint venture between Karl Lagerfeld, head designer and creative director at Chanel as the photographer, and Carine Roitfeld, ex editor-in-chief of Vogue Paris as the stylist, opened at the Saatchi Gallery on the 18th October. Featuring not just models, actors and designers but also children, students, a ballet dancer and, of course, Kanye West, this photographic exhibition aims to throw a new light on one of Chanel’s most famous pieces: the little black jacket.

The rooms in the Saatchi that house the exhibition are dimly lit, and their walls lined with photographic evidence that this one jacket can live through each person and tell a different story every time. It can be bohemian, Victorian, innocent, sexy or classic.


Each photograph shows the same jacket worn differently and, in many cases, completely unconventionally. Elizabeth Olsen wore it inside out, model Eddie Campbell opted for sleeveless and over a wedding-like dress, Sarah Jessica Parker decided to have it as a hat and style icon Jane Birkin simply teamed it with jeans. It was also worn with studs, flowers, a skeleton dress, a snap-back… In Virgine Viard’s (head of Chanel studio) words, this Chanel jacket is ‘outside of fashion’. It is classic, but not vintage.

But what exactly makes this jacket so special? For one, it has Chanel’s exquisite tailoring. It sits just right, and hangs from all the right places. It is handmade in the atelier (you can watch a video online of the process!), which just makes it that much more special. And, not that you need me to say it again, it can be worn with anything. Anything. Carine Roitfeld said she thinks of it as more of a denim jacket at times: you can dress it up or down and, more importantly, you really can’t go wrong with it – it is a wearable piece of art.

For me, Sarah Jessica Parker summed it up nicely: “I consider it one of my prize possessions, I feel lucky to own one”. Wouldn’t you?

Chantal Carlstein


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