“Who is Gabrielle?” #GabrielleChanel

May 01, 2017 3:00 PM

Everyone knows Chanel 2.55, the bag famously created by Gabrielle Chanel in February 1955 and named after the month and year of its birth. “Coco” Gabrielle Chanel always loved to incorporate numbers into the names of her creations, like “2.55” for what will become the ultimate it-bag and “N°5” for her mythic perfume. But when Karl Lagerfeld designed a new bag as tribute to the fashion house’s founder, he did not chose a number, but instead the name “Gabrielle.”

Elegantly named after Coco, Chanel’s Gabrielle bag was introduced during the Spring-Summer 2017 ready-to-wear collection, and the month of April has been cadenced by the releases of the advertising campaign and four short films, all of which are truly A-list eye candy. In approximatively one-minute-long videos starring Kristen Stewart, Cara Delevingne, Caroline de Maigret, and Pharrell Williams, each character embodies a different style of Chanel. There is, however, another presence– the aura of Gabrielle– felt in each of the four movies, which begs the question, “Who is Gabrielle?”

In the first short film, Kristen Stewart dances as if she was inhabited by Gabrielle’s soul. The mystical tension is not released until she stops in front of a glass inscribed with the name of the founder of Chanel, leaving the heroine in a peaceful bliss. This magical atmosphere is depicted in another opus featuring singer Pharrell Williams in an empty concert hall. Here, the star chose to have a little bit of fun by himself, and the placement of the Gabrielle bag confirms its genderless appeal. At the end of the movie, Pharrell witnesses a mysterious apparition, the return of the aura of Gabrielle looking out over her protégés. And in yet another distinct style, the very Parisienne Caroline de Maigret, one of Chanel's ambassadors, stars in a third short film, or “poetic wander” as she describes it. Wandering in black and white in a Haussmannian apartment, we are left to imagine an appointment taking place between Caroline and, of course, Gabrielle. These three short movies leave us with a strange feeling, a striking and perhaps unsettling impression, that the spirit of Coco Chanel was there with us the entire time.

However, the standout of the releases was the second movie, a peculiar rotoscope animation created by Japanese director ShiShi Yamazaki, most known for her character “ShiShi Girl.” In the Chanel collaboration, Yamasaki left her usual character aside in order to bring a new one to life– a cartoon version of Cara Delevingne. The artistic video plays with pop colors and lines that appear and dissolve into shapes, following Cara, a regular face of Chanel, as she rides her skateboard in a dreamlike world, grabbing bags that hang from trees like mysterious fruit of fashion. The Japanese director only hints at Gabrielle’s presence through Cara’s repetitive calling-out of her name. Cara points out, “My character in the animation– I feel like she’s a young, Parisian skater girl who loves bags a lot. So, basically me!” But, the bag’s tangible feeling of belonging does not apply only to Cara, but to anyone with possession of the sublime Gabrielle.

Inspired by the shape of augmented reality glasses, Karl Lagerfeld indeed brought a very modern design to the new bag’s collection. The Gabrielle’s strap is made with a double-chain, interlaced with leather, and the bag also comes in a hobo version, available as a backpack, a large shopper, and a supple purse. With so many interpretations of the bag and different styles to chose from, the answer to “Who is Gabrielle?” seems to be “you!”








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