Two Ladies: From CC to WE.

Coco Chanel

In 2001 Walter Van Beirondonck curated Fashion 2001 Landed/Geland in Antwerp, which to date still stands as the best exhibition (actually a series of events and exhibitions, which took over the whole city) I have ever been to.  Stephen Jones and his partner the lovely Craig took me under their wing and together we went to museums, shows and supper.  One event called 2women celebrated  two women who have indeed changed the course of 20th century womenswear: Coco Chanel who liberated us from frills, corsets and hobble skirts and Rei Kawakubo whose Japanese ultra-modernity redefined what it is to be glamorous without overt sexual display.  One evening a Comme Des Garcons show was presented to an eager audience filled with the Antwerp Six and their coterie, who I observed all quite happy to sit together, unruffled by rivalry and show their admiration for Rei’s remarkable designs.  That afternoon an 18th Century house in the city had been taken over for an exhibition to celebrate all things Chanel.  From a room laid out with bottles of No. 5 in a huge 5 pattern, to an enclosed room filled with black and white images of her monochromatic universe; it really was an extraordinary day, celebrating two extraordinary women.

This Wednesday I am very excited that my local bookshop Daunt Books is hosting an event to celebrate, discuss and challenge assumptions about Chanel with another iconic woman from the 20th Century, Wallis Simpson at Keat’s House.

Wallis Simpson

Both known for their personal taste and unorthodox lives, I love the idea of placing them together, since both in their ways  were utterly radical, breaking through convention, class system strictures, albeit with a constant veneer of stark style where noone was either too rich, or too thin.

If you are free this Wednesday, I would utterly urge you to join me, my dear friend Lizzie from Mishka Vintage and others paying homage at the talk by Justine Picardie and Anne Sebba, authors of Coco Chanel, A Portrait and That Woman, the story of Wallis Simpson.  I can’t wait to hear them in conversation, having just finished Picardie’s biography last week.  Keat’s House is a ridiculously gorgeous venue at the bottom of a beautiful lane of houses close to Hampstead Heath: part of the reason why I love North London.  £5 including wine.

Sometimes I forget why I love clothes, why I persist in wearing heels and a hat when it really is far faster in flats, I lose sight of my truth: that style has its story and its power potency.  After this talk, I am sure I will remember and revel in the reasons why I love shoes, chiffon and sequins quite so much.  I expect to be re-enchanted.

Keat's House

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