‘The eternal can only last if it stays up to date at the same time. For this reason the jacket is eternal.’ Karl Lagerfeld on Chanel’s classic jacket.
How many souls can an iconic piece of clothing have? How contemporary yet timeless can it be? How can something that’s kept its basic design unaltered manage to follow the frivolous dancing steps of the latest trend? These seem to be some of the questions that crossed the minds of the two uber-fashion brains behind “The Little Black Jacket: CHANEL’s classic revisited by Karl Lagerfeld and Carine Roitfeld*“, the new book and exhibition which will finally land in Milano at the Rotonda di Via Besana from Saturday April 6th until Saturday April 20th ( admission is free).
‘ Ultimately it’s a very wearable garment because you can do a lot with it. It can work as sportswear when paired with jeans, or go with an evening gown, or be worn by a male ballet dancer. This jacket suits everyone. It’s an incredible item of clothing. It’s like a very elegant version of the denim jacket…It works. Everybody wants one. We did a white version at one point; it looked fabulous in white too. I don’t know. There are secrets like that. Some things will just always work very, very well, the Coco spirit.’ says Carine on the enduring appeal of what was for quite some time the most classic/posh item of clothing a lady could wear. Created in 1954 as part of the ultimate tailleur, the Chanel jacket was originaly inspired by a Tyrolean jacket with four pockets and a braid trim that was worn by staff at the Baron Pantz Hotel in Austria. ‘Just as she borrowed tweed from the Duke of Westminster and jersey from Boy Capel, she took this piece and fashioned the ladies’ equivalent of a men’s two-button suit.’ explains Karl. Designed for ‘women who move’ as Chanel liked to say, the suit was a perfect mix of beauty and comfort, every detail had a practical function, every button actually closed something, every pocket could be used to put hands or objects in, quite a revolutionary concept at the time, strange as it might seem. Part of the jacket’s charm is its lightness and comfort, its classic appeal teamed with incredible versatility.
‘It’s like jeans or a t-shirt: it’s something that belongs to everyone…You feel good in it. Like the cardigan, it was originally a men’s jacket, which is perhaps why women like to wear it. Personally I’ve always liked the masculine/feminine look in women, and for me this jacket projects that perfectly. It has a masculine side to it.’ enthuses Carine.
Through the elegant black and white of Lagerfeld’s lens, the jacket is seen in a monocromatic kaleidoscope of permutations, worn by celebrities from all over the world, the garment itself mutating through every conceivable style and form, short, long, sleeveless, cut, ripped, used as a turban, it becomes sweet, punk, glam, street, classi cand everything in between without losing its genetic code.
Inès de la Fressange puts it perfectly ‘It’s not a garment, it’s a concept: “the CHANEL jacket”: in this era of words, images and marketing, it’s as classic as rock ‘n’ roll: all the contradictions required for the present day.‘ The kind of wardrobe staple that is in everybody’s dreams, if not in our closets.