Subscribe to our newsletter to receive news and inspiration direct to your inbox

A very Coco Chelsea

As a major Chanel exhibition opens at the V&A, fashion director Alexandra Fullerton imagines what Gabrielle ‘Coco’ Chanel herself would get up to in Chelsea today

3 August 2023

Gabrielle 'Coco' Chanel. Photo: Roger Schall, courtesy of the V&A
The Cadogan, a Belmond Hotel
Salon Sloane
Granger & Co.

I am always fascinated by VIP antics and their escapades in London (wasn’t it a lark when Rihanna took the tube when she was performing at the O2?). So when the V&A announced its blockbuster Chanel exhibition, opening this September, naturally I couldn’t help but wonder what the House’s founder, Gabrielle ‘Coco’ Chanel, would do if she were around today. 

Here, I’ve imagined a world where Coco arrives for an extended stay in London for the exhibition. It almost goes without saying that she would make a beeline for the city’s most luxurious neighbourhood, Chelsea…

Still reigning at the helm of Chanel and now spending a season in the British capital for the opening of Gabrielle Chanel. Fashion Manifesto at the V&A, Coco has eschewed the enclaves of the parvenu and descended on London’s most luxurious postcode, taking up residence at The Cadogan, A Belmond Hotel (along with a mountain of monochrome luggage that sees her covered for every sartorial need).

She consistently takes inspiration from menswear classics (she was first to integrate trousers into women’s wardrobes), working-class tropes (the Breton top was a fisherman’s uniform before Coco appropriated it) and the power of the logo (interlocking double Cs are as recognisable today as the tricolour flag). 

Playtime takes up a large chunk of the fashion icon’s time, but this extended trip is mostly about work. While in town, Coco has been paying regular visits to the V&A to ensure the blockbuster exhibition (opening 16th September) is absolutely accurate. And devastatingly chic, of course.

Living up to her own motto, “You can be gorgeous at 30, charming at 40 and irresistible for the rest of your life,” Coco gains admirers wherever she goes. During her stay on Sloane Street, paparazzi have been primed to spot potential suiters. Coco’s predilection for the British aristocracy has afforded rumours of trysts with several highly eligible gentlemen after they were spotted dining together at the Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park hotel’s The Aubrey restaurant (Coco doesn’t blanch at the specialty – ants on sashimi). 

For lunch, Coco has been seen heading to Raw Press, the vegan café concocting a nutritionally considered menu that’s free from meat and dairy. Abandoning her once limited diet of champagne and caviar, Coco has adopted a flexi-vegan lifestyle and enjoys plant-based delicacies, fulfilling her belief that, “You cannot indulge in those foods and liquors that destroy the physique and still hope to have a physique that functions with the minimum of destruction to itself.”

As such, caring for her face, body and hair takes precedence in Mlle Chanel’s diary. Salon Sloane is a daily pitstop for the glossiest blow dries in SW1, while whispers swirl on the circumstances around Coco’s jaw (as sharp as her rapier wit) and super-smooth skin. Coco told reporters: “The wise woman keeps her cosmetics at hand.” By all accounts, she also keeps the name of her aesthetician absolutely under wraps (but we suspect she’s a regular at the Cadogan Clinic for subtle tweakments and at Michaeljohn for jaw-tightening CACI facials). It seems state secrets are leaked with more frequency than Coco Chanel’s beauty address book. 

Something less secretive is Coco’s dedication to her tennis lessons in Cadogan Place Gardens, courtesy of her residency at The Cadogan. Summer’s TikTok trend for tenniscore undeniably stemmed from Coco’s preference for pleated skirts and crisp tennis whites, which also graced the catwalks of her recent prêt-a-porter collections. Coco has become increasingly fascinated by the role sport plays within the fashion world. Athlete Eve Wright, tennis star Emma Raducanu, rugby player Maro Itoje and cricketer Jofra Archer often join Coco for brunches at Granger & Co. to discuss their shared experiences of competition, ambition and success. They’ll also touch on outfit planning for their upcoming engagements.

Coco makes a quick change into daywear (her current take on the skirt suit comes in easy jersey, again in her signature monochrome palette) and her afternoons see her taking tea with designer Patrick McDowell, Harry Styles and his stylist Harry Lambert, and actor Emma Corrin. For such an occasion, afternoon teas at The LaLee and The Carlton Tower Jumeirah are favourites, but sometimes, secretive talks about upcoming collaborations and the like necessitate conversations behind the closed doors of Chelsea’s finest private residences. 

As the originator of blurred gender lines within fashion, Coco adores the way Gen Z protagonists are continuing her mission to break boundaries around binary style codes. The conversation runs into the evening before Coco and her crew hop into a waiting Blacklane car to supper at Tuscan eatery Cantinetta Antinori. They dig into sharing boards and vintage Barolo while Coco pops outside for her solitary cigarette of the day.

Ever since Igor Stravinsky, Coco has had a soft spot for classical music and can’t resist the sentimental pull of the occasional concert. She’ll undoubtedly be at Cadogan Hall on September 27 for a performance by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra which, incidentally, will perform her former sweetheart’s The Firebird.

And while many of us take one last scroll through Instagram before bed, Coco is beyond the pull of social media and retires with a recommendation from John Sandoe Books, before drifting into blissful, dream-filled repose.


Alexandra Fullerton is fashion director-at-large at Glamour UK; formerly the fashion director at Stylist, and has contributed to V, Grazia and Harper’s Bazaar Arabia.
Gabrielle Chanel. Fashion Manifesto runs at the V&A from 16 September 2023 to 25 February 2024. Book tickets here.

More fashion on Sloane Street

Fashion edits and guides from Sloane Street and beyond