LUXURYCULTURE.COM - Coco Chanel's Shanghai Dream


A new short movie tells the story of Coco Chanel's unrealized dream to visit Shanghai. We showcase a series of behind-the-scenes photographs from the film.

Coco Chanel never travelled to China, but what would have happened if she had made it to the Paris of the East? According to Karl Lagerfeld, she would have swapped her couture jacket for a Chairman Mao jacket, visited gambling clubs with the Duchess of Windsor, watched Marlene Dietrich in cabaret, taken tea with an emperor, and taken a trip on the Shanghai Express. These are just some of the scenes in “Paris Shanghai: a Fantasy”, a short movie that premiered in Shanghai last week at a spectacular Chanel fashion show that took place on a barge on the Huangpu river.

“I always dreamed to be in Shanghai!” exclaims Coco Chanel in one of the opening scenes of the film. Whether that is true or not is a point of debate, but what is known is that her Rue Cambon apartment was famously furnished with huge Coromandel screens and she loved a Chinese bronze. It is also evident that there are similarities between the shape of a classic Chanel tweed jacket and that of the Chinese Mao jacket. Nowhere was this more apparent than on the runway overlooking Pudong, which showcased a special Chanel collection called Paris-Shanghai.

The movie is a dream, literally: at the end of the 10-minute film Coco Chanel wakes up to realise her Shanghai sojourn was all a fantasy. And what a fashion fantasy it is: Lady Amanda Harlech plays the Duchess of Windsor, Heidi Mount plays Marlene Dietrich, and Stephen Gan, the editor-in-chief of V magazine, makes a cameo as a passenger on the Shanghai Express. Models from Chanel advertising campaigns also makes an appearance and the actress Jane Schmitt has been praised for her performance of Coco herself.

As we showcase a selection of moody behind-the-scenes photographs from “Paris Shanghai: a Fantasy”, we invite you to guess the historical and fashion references found throughout the series. What was Coco saying to the Chinese workmen? Who are the glamorous passengers on the Shanghai Express? And what would the emperor have made of it all? Use your imagination, dream and create your own fantasy.

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