Sydney wears the little black jacket

The Little Black Jacket, by Karl Lagerfield and Carine Roitfeld – Pier 2/3 Walsh Bay, Sydney – closes 11th November 2012

A charming industrial pier on Sydney harbour hosts Karl Lagerfield’s photographic exhibition on the iconic little black jacket. The exhibiting space is beautiful: extra-tall ceiling and timber beams, old wooden floors, a rusty industrial structure concealed behind black panels. This ex working space suspended on water smells like timber and salt.

The Chanel you expect stops at the entrance, where a vase of delicate white flowers sits on a black desk. From there on, it’s a whole new brand, so contemporary you forget we’re talking about a classic. The large black-and-white pictures, at a closer look, are made of dots like a Roy Lichtenstein’s print.  As you walk though the internal perimeter of the pier, you can experience the exhibition on several levels.

On a fashion level, you can see the collection as a styling exercise, in which stylist Carine Roitfeld shows how versatile the jacket is, in how many ways it can be worn, how easily it can be dressed up or down, and how many looks you end up with.

Even better, you can identify all the different styles created for the shots – baroque, grunge, Asian, sexy, ballet, tribal, French chic, hip hop, punk, collage… The little black jacket easily transforms itself each time and almost encourages you to leave your comfort zone and reinvent yourself.

Moving on to the historical level, you can also read the exhibition as a journey in time, and see how the jacket blends in with every era’s distinctive features: ruffles and collars of royal outfits of the 18th century, 20s and 30s tomboy looks, the 70s’ flower power, Uma Thurman’s shirt and perm straight from the 80s, rock and punk ensembles from the 90s.

Looking deeper, it also feels like you’re standing in front of a social and demographic display. Chanel’s garment crosses sex, age and social status barriers, seen here on both men and women, children and older people, wealthy ladies plus a waitress, a dominatrix mistress and a nun.

Finally, an entertaining way to work your way through the exhibition – and it’s very addictive – is to see if you can spot celebrities in the shots. You will find, among others, Linda Evangelista, Claudia Schiffer, Lili Allen, Sarah Jessica Parker, Kanye West, Tilda Swinton.

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