Chanel and the City

I’ve been keeping this blog under wraps until I could find an event that would combine my two favorite pastimes (travel and fashion) and could be worthy of a mention. For those of you who have supported and followed me from my thread at tpf, I also want it to be all about Chanel. So welcome to my first attempt at blogging and let’s see how long you all want to be witness to my madcap adventures…

It is an ordinary autumn day punctuated by extraordinary sights and sounds. I’ve already had a few busy days of running around NYC but today is the day. The air seems crisper, my steps feel quicker, and my heart beats a little faster as my sister and I head for Rumsey Playfield in Central Park. We turn the corner to 69th Street and I almost expect to see a giant mother ship floating above us, having already seen so many preview pics of the Mobile Art Container by Zaha Hadid. Instead there are just clean white signs pointing to the structure inside the park.


As we make our way inside the lush park, I see the celebrated white structure snake around in front of me.

In my head I do a cartwheel from sheer excitement. I know the time has finally come to suspend reality and surrender myself to the disturbing fantasy that is Karl Lagerfeld’s interpretation of Chanel. But then I see the queue. And worse, signs forbidding photography inside the exhibit. Ugh.

So here I am, with some exterior shots.

Is that a mirage behind me? A wormhole, perhaps? No, it is a cool boxy structure constructed with reflective glass…are you looking in or out?

Spoiler alert! If you haven’t yet gone but will be going, don’t read the rest of this stuff. The first time you experience the exhibit should preferably be with your own eyes and ears and not mine. But if you can’t attend, I’ll try to recall as much as I can here. Apologies if I may have some stuff out of sequence but the mind plays tricks on you when you OD on Chanel…

When they call you in small groups to the front door, they take all of your belongings and then one staffer (btw all the staffers outside are dressed in black nylon Chanel jackets, and the ones inside have on black sweaters with a Chanel logo on the front) very politely goes over the instructions with you and sets the headset to the language of your choice. French actress Jeanne Moreau’s bourbon-and-cigarettes voice comes on (at least with the English headset) and suddenly on n’est plus a NY. Chanel, j’arrive!

The first thing you see is what I’d call an insect velodome. Well, maybe a funnel. You’re commanded to look over into a barrel about one floor deep. On the circular walls are flickering b/w pictures of insects in various stages of metamorphosis. I forget what the narrative is at this point because my mind drifts off to my teenage years in San Antonio where there were a lot of cicadas.  I don’t know where we are going with this, Karl.

I think after this bit you’re directed to go inside a narrow dark room. Your eyes adjust to the dark and you realize that you are now standing on a sidewalk in Paris. And what you’re doing is looking inside the windows of apartments; rows of them. Train your eyes and you will catch life fluttering behind the windows. People are talking inside the apartments. Birds are flying by. There are sounds of footsteps. Lights are turned on and shut off. I could have stood there all day. In my heart I long for my one year in Paris so that I could be that life inside the window. But Jeanne tells me I must move on.

Out of the dark you come up to the main floor and there they are, two pretty Asian girls on separate flat screen monitors, in black and white. Like still photography. They look like they are frozen in time. But look closer and they are actually moving without moving. Every once in a while you might see them exhale or swallow. I’m not sure what to make of it, but I wonder how I can get my skin to glow like theirs. Maybe turn back the clock 20 years and stay out of the sun? Or maybe this is just a subliminal message for me to keep using Chanel’s beauty products?

Next up are 5 carton boxes. Look inside and there are various videos of naked women beating each other over the head with a Chanel flap bag, holding their hands out to catch a bag as it falls like manna from the heavens, or using a giant flap bag as a floating device in a pool. The woman on the float is quite chubby, and it is hysterical to see her paddle her way through the water on top of this giant purse. To be fair, I believe there is also a naked man in the video where they are trying to catch the falling bags. I am both amused and horrified by the sight of Chanel bags touching naked body parts.  Ok, 65% amused and 35% horrified. Just what exactly did they do with these bags after the videos were shot? Can I find that giant purse-float on eBay?

Past the videos there is a green corrugated shed with the doors slightly ajar. Bright light beams from between the cracks in the structure. I step up to look inside the doors and it happens. Those 20 years I asked for earlier fall at my feet. In fact, what I see now makes me feel like a 9 year old. Inside the shed is a Chanel wonderland.  A secret garden with swings fashioned out of quilted leather in pastel colors. The chains of the swings are the classic chains interwoven with the leather in matching colors!  My mind swirls in trying to guess which season begat which swing color. And in spectacular fashion, behind the series of swings, stands a giant black leather quilted teddy bear. Around his neck is the classic chain in silver…if only I could have taken him home. The visit to this room is much too short. I want to have a tea party in my secret garden.

The next room is blindingly bright and white, especially because it is a very nice sunny day during my visit and I’m baking in this glass sunroom. In the middle of the room is a huge black 2.55 bag set up as a sofa. And of course no self-respecting, giant purse sofa can be complete without a giant compact that serves as a TV. Something violent is on the compact-TV but I can’t pay attention to it because I am distracted by the fuzzy bordeaux colored fur lining the purse. I wonder how you can clean it–with a giant hairbrush? I walk around the entire purse sofa and think about my own black 2.55 flap waiting for me at home in LA. I want to tell Karl Lagerfeld I love him.

Then it’s the end of the tour. You get to a table to pick up some postcards and then reflect on the pictures on the wall. There’s a huge wall art of the quilted leather. And then there are the fabulous photos from the factory showing purses in various stages of production. It’s always wonderful to see these bags in a different context than on stores’ display shelves. 

After lingering on the photography you come to the wishing tree. It’s up to you to fill out a card with your own wish and then hang the card on a branch. I scribble something but notice that my sister does not; she’s busy reading other people’s wishes.  We collect our bags and are given complimentary catalogs.

As we leave Central Park, my sister wonders out loud if anyone writes down that they wish for a Chanel bag. With my “Leo” flap bag already perched on my shoulder and a gentle breeze rustling through the gorgeous leaves in the park, I realize that that wish has already been granted for me. And then some. I want to tell Karl we should marry.

But my wish at the wishing tree? Let the fantasy continue!


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