Today I got a special preview of this weekend's upcoming special exhibition at the Chanel Boutique in San Francisco. In the course of a mere half hour, I was transported into the design world of Mademoiselle Coco Chanel. As a crafter, I was in awe to be able to have someone dissect a Chanel bag and talk about the design and production process. About twenty of us sat and watched the exhibit wall which showcase the main seven steps it took to create a classic Chanel 2.55 bag. (There are actually 180 steps in all to make one handbag.) The 2.55 bag was created in Feburary 1955 by Coco Chanel who was inspired the messenger style bags worn by French soldiers. Chanel believed a woman needed her hands free to do more things. Thus her new design of a shoulder strap forever changed the design of handbags everywhere. This bag is a classic and just as trendy on the streets today. I love my black lambskin 2.55 with silver hardware which I've worn dressed up to many special events as well casually with jeans and a t-shirt.
A very chic French woman from Chanel in France came and talked us through the exhibit which was on display previously in Paris. If you are lucky enough to be in the Bay Area, don't miss the chance this weekend to check out this free exhibit and learn the secrets of Coco Chanel's iconic handbag.
To make a Chanel 2.55 bag, it's a mix of innovative technology and more importantly handmade craftsmanship. The main wall of the exhibit showcased each of the main seven sections. The mannequins held video screens that mimicked Chanel leather quilted bags. To me they were a sort of luxe "screen cozy". This is where all of us watched the clips of the production process. During the upcoming weekend exhibit, the video screens will play with a voice over describing the process and story.
Here's a short video I took with my iPhone panning the exhibit wall. Not the best video but you get the idea. See more detailed photos after the jump!
Each handbag uses one piece of lambskin leather so that the coloring and texture remains the same. It may be hard to see in this photo but a computer takes an outline of each specific skin and projects the template pieces in an optimum format. A craftsman will approve the layout and the machine will cut out each of the necessary pieces to make up one handbag.
This special plate works with a computerized sewing machine to create the quilting. The machine creates even diamond squares and never stitches over a line. It's amazing to see the video of it in action.
Here's a close up of some of the quilting lines not complete so you can see how the machine figures out how to draw a stitch line across the area in a random manner.
Here's how the bag looks after it is stitched up. Afterwards, an artisan turns it inside out and uses a bone tool too smooth out the corners and the stitches. This job is done by a craftswoman because of the dexterity of women's small hands to reach in the small areas.
I love looking at all the internal pieces that make up a bag. It's sort of a bag within a bag, no? Notice the burgundy leather in the interior. All the pieces are made so that they all line up equally in the center.
They say that the burgundy color was the color of the uniforms worn by children in the orphanage that Coco Chanel lived in during her youth. It was also mentioned that Chanel's choice of this beautiful burgundy color made it easier for a woman to look inside her handbag to see the contents.
The leather chains are hand-weaved with a special technique so that the chains don't twist. I personally love that Chanel chains are not heavy but in fact are quite light so you can still have things in your handbag and not be weighed down.
We each got a special gift on our chair of Coco Mademoiselle Eau de Parfum purse spray. Merci!