Parsons Paris

A Visit to the Chanel Archive

Recently, a group of First Year students had a one-of-a-kind opportunity to visit the Chanel archives in Pantin, just outside Paris. This experience was a unique occasion to delve into the history of one of the most-known fashion brands and the work of Coco Chanel and Karl Lagerfeld. 

Before going through the archive, students had the chance to know the offices’ gallery space (which is open only to employees and VIPs) to see the exhibition Image, Mirage. This exhibition showcased the multiple interpretations of Coco Chanel by different artists, many of them friends of the designer, like Pablo Picasso and Jean Cocteau.

Next, students went to the archive, which is structured very orderly; for example, the catalog can be accessed through barcodes and features other technological applications. The items preserved in the archive also include Chanel’s perfumes and make-up lines. 

The visit to the archive, besides being an experience where students are face-to-face with the objects that compose it, revealed the complexities and daily minutia of archiving work and that it is a living organism. For instance, one of the archivist’s tasks is to search for original garments worldwide to observe if it fits with their collection framework to acquire it. 

The Chanel archive, besides serving the purpose of preserving their heritage, is a source of inspiration (Angele, the French singer, visited it for inspiration for her tour outfits); it loans objects for fashion exhibitions and participates in creating the brand’s narrative. 

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