World Exclusive: Inside Chanel's Exclusive Mademoiselle Privé Party

Chanel, Mademoiselle Prive, Luxury, Party, Exhibition, Pharrell Williams, Coco Chanel
Courtesy of Chanel
Calling Tokyo home until 1st December, Chanel’s latest iteration of Mademoiselle Privé is the most intimate exhibition yet. We spoke to brand ambassador, Pharrell Williams about his take on Coco’s world, pesky artistic hang-ups, and why he’s not ready to think about legacy quite yet…

A sparkling look from 18-19 Haute Couture

Courtesy of Chanel

"I've never told anyone this story,” Pharrell Williams half-whispers, tucked into a secluded interview corner with us at the Tokyo launch of Mademoiselle Privé. It’s a sentence that is music to a journalist’s ears. We lean in closer. “In 2014, I made two songs for Diddy. I made Lemon, and I made a song that I never released called Chanel Pharrell. Karl [Lagerfeld] never knew about it, but when he talked about doing a collaboration with me, he said, ‘Why don’t we do Chanel Pharrell?’” He pauses as he looks us in the eye. “Facts,” he says finally.

To some, this semi-telepathic simpatico between the two would be unsurprising, their long-standing friendship resulting in Pharrell’s ambassadorship of the maison and, more recently, the storming, sell-out partnership that he’s referring to – the first celebrity to ever collaborate on a capsule with the house, no less.

The beige sofa of the living room is a colour Coco decreed as “always in fashion”

Courtesy of Chanel

Up until Chanel inverted its connotations, black was solely the colour of clergy and servants

Courtesy of Chanel

The iconic mirrored staircase at 31 Rue Cambon

Courtesy of Chanel

At first glance, the brand alignment of the rapper-producer and one of the pinnacles of French luxury might not be readily evident, but to know Chanel is to understand the fundamentally ground-breaking nature of its amesake founder.

Gabrielle Chanel in her apartment, 1937

Courtesy of Chanel

Gabrielle Chanel possessed a brilliantly renegade spirit that she wove throughout her designs, liberating women both physically with her silhouettes, and socially with her contagiously progressive attitude. She was, in essence, a revolutionary as much as an artist – exactly what the exhibition exists to put a lens over.

Highlighting the three creative worlds of Chanel – Haute Couture, high jewellery and fragrance – the maison’s famed globetrotting showcase began in London in 2015 and has evolved as it’s traversed Hong Kong, Seoul and Shanghai. It’s finally landed here, in Tokyo’s art district of Tennozu until 1 December, inviting you in to an interpretation of Coco’s inner sanctum; her apartment and creative studio on the third floor of 31 Rue Cambon.

One mannequin per room dons a mask as a nod to Japanese Kabuki

Courtesy of Chanel

Mademoiselle Privé – so-called after the words written on her door – comprises five rooms, each dedicated to a different area of her apartment, and the cornerstone colours of her palette. White after the iconic mirrored staircase (which would be perfumed with Chanel No.5 before her arrival every morning), beige after her beloved sofa, black from her dining room, red from her writing desk, and baroque gold from her fireplace.

Haute Couture pieces by both Karl Lagerfeld and Virginie Viard are displayed throughout each space, as well as objects that tell the story of Chanel No.5, and re-editions of Coco’s legendary 1932 Bijoux De Diamants collection – originally dismantled for flouting convention.

“She thought about things in a completely different way to everyone else,” Pharrell tells us – something to which we’re sure the famed non-conformist relates, having gone against the grain his entire career, be that sartorially or musically. So does he feel like that too, we ask?

“To some degree, but I think we all do as individuals,” he says with humility – something that, funnily enough, he cites as having learned in Japan. “It’s what makes you you and what makes you you.” He may not be bragging, although after winning 10 Grammys and being nominated for two Oscars, he has every right to. Perhaps one day they’ll be creating an exhibition like this about him. What would that look like?

“It’s a great question but I genuinely don’t know,” he shrugs. “Because I’m only my best self when I’m channelling other people. All my best work has been written for others, I promise you.”

Double C: Brand ambassador Pharrell performs at the exhibition launch party

Courtesy of Chanel

There’s that humility again. And that sense of magic and creativity being very much a team sport. “I love that the maison realises that while telling [Gabrielle’s] story, it’s important to lift up the craftsmen and their voices. To give them visibility and volume so that you understand the magnitude of her ideas and what it takes to bring them to life.” He’s right. In each room, the expertise of Chanel’s Métiers d’Art is inescapable – from the SS17 Haute Couture organza suit in the white room, crafted over 2,240 hours and embroidered with 200,000 elements,  or the future-facing innovation of the AW16 Haute Couture 3D-printed skirt suit in the red room.

The red sequence was inspired by the colour of Coco’s desk

Courtesy of Chanel

“You know the results,” Pharrell explains. “You buy the results all the time, or you look at the results in a magazine… but this reverse-engineering experience, this experiential journey that’s inspired by different aspects of [Gabrielle’s] living spaces allows you to glean where some of her epiphanies came from,” he continues, radiating with genuine awe. “You really get to understand that yeah, she was a designer… but really, she was an artist.”

And what about his art? After having impacted the cultural landscape to such a degree since the early ’90s, he must be thinking about leaving a legacy similar to Chanel’s? After all, what she did for notions of femininity, he has been doing for masculinity since he first began bucking against rap’s rigid old ideals. He paved the way for something different. Something cooler.

Mademoiselle Privé’s fifth iteration calls the art district of Tokyo home

Courtesy of Chanel

A trouser suit in bronze from 18-19 Haute Couture

Courtesy of Chanel

“Legacy is a very funny thing,” he says slowly. “Thinking about the concept is you accepting the fact that the present will turn to past, and that will be a static, immutable fixture in time. I don’t know if I’m ready to do that yet. I mean, I’m 46, but when I start to think about legacy, I start to think it sounds like it’s over…” He stops, then adds, “Look, I’m giving you my own personal hang-ups. This is me being an artist. I don’t like to think about it… I like to think, ‘Ok, so what’s up with tomorrow?’”

We’re sure Gabrielle thought exactly the same way.

Visit Mademoiselle Privé until 1 December 2019 at B&C Hall-Tennoz, Tokyo.

Visit mademoiselleprive.chanel.com to book.


From the November Issue of Harper's BAZAAR Arabia 

BY

Chanel, Mademoiselle Prive, Luxury, Party, Exhibition, Pharrell Williams, Coco Chanel
Courtesy of Chanel