Expect an assault on the senses as you wander around the Gabrielle Chanel. Fashion Manifesto blockbuster exhibition at Melbourne’s NGV.

Put on your little black dress, add a dozen or so strands of pearls and grab your quilted bag, be it real or fake, and you are dressed for the part.

The moment you step foot in the exhibition, I’m sure you can smell the bewitching Channel No. 5, the signature perfume created in 1921 by the renowned French couturière.

There’s also a collective sigh of approval and awe as visitors ooh and aah over the designs.

When you come face to face with rows of oh-so-elegant Chanel suits in lightweight woven tweed or wool bouclé with gilt buttons and braiding, black quilted bags, two-tone slingbacks and jewellery ahead of its time – it’s enough to make the heart beat a little faster. 

Fashionistas, design lovers, seamstresses, models, and those who simply can’t resist anything French, are flocking to the gallery to see what all the fuss is about.

There are more than 230 garments, accessories and jewellery pieces that showcase the style of the revered designer, known as “Coco”, who led a colourful life.

It is the first exhibition in Australia to exclusively focus on the significant contribution she made to twentieth-century fashion culture.

The drop-dead gorgeous, timeless classics are made from fabrics just as stunning as the styles. 

Ms Chanel pioneered relaxed looks and the use of jersey and tweed, drawing inspiration from menswear and sportswear. She is revered for remaking the ordinary into the extraordinary and her transformation of the little black dress.

Her quotes are beauties, too: “A woman is closest to being naked when she is well dressed”; “In order to be irreplaceable, one must always be different”; “I only drink champagne on two occasions, when I am in love and when I am not”; and, of course, “I don’t do fashion. I am fashion.”

The glamour of the evnet.

My city base – where Chanel fashions would look right at home – is the elegant Hilton Melbourne Little Queen Street, which also oozes style with a nod to the golden age of travel. 

The hotel has undergone a massive three-year renovation to preserve the best of its Art Deco design with a modern edge.

Melbourne’s architectural and design company Bates Smart worked its magic, transforming the 1930s heritage-listed Equity Trustees Company building into a 244-room hotel. Coffered ceilings, ornate plasterwork, columns and carved timber features have all been restored –but there’s an edge to this Hilton.

The striking porte-cochere reflects a large mural by artist Kitt Bennett, with a nod to Melbourne famous laneway artwork, on a screen of bronzed metal and gold glass.

Charming heritage suites have their own antique lifts and retain a grandeur of the past while modern rooms feature leather wardrobe cabinetry handles inspired by vintage luggage. The carpet designs and bathroom tiles echo patterns found in the Equity Chambers façade. 

Hilton’s loyalty program, Hilton Honors, provides access to a mobile app affording contactless arrival check-in, room selection and a Digital Key.

The elegant in-house restaurant, Luci, is impressive with ornate plasterwork and columns, beautiful lighting and decor.

Dinner is a treat – the first of a series of four-course Opera Wine Dinners showcasing stars from Opera Melbourne. Tonight’s show features baritone Adam Jon and soprano Eleanor Greenwood performing arias from La Boheme and The Barber of Seville

Executive chef Sam Moore devised his menu based on the story and background of each aria. We dine on snapper in olive oil with heirloom tomatoes and basil, followed by tordelli pasta with pancetta, sage and pine nuts, beef fillet with foie gras sauce and madeira jus, and a grand finale of decadent tiramisu – all accompanied by curated wines.

For a nightcap, try Death in the Afternoon in the chic Douglas Club, a cocktail bar that evokes feelings of the thirties jazz age and the golden age of travel and proves a perfect finale to the trip. It’s so good to see so much missed Melbourne magic reignited.

Hilton Melbourne Little Queen Street’s I Am Fashion’ stay 

Overnight accommodation for two, special welcome amenity from the NGV, daily breakfast at Luci restaurant and two tickets to NGV’s Gabrielle Chanel. Fashion Manifesto exhibition is included in a special rate, with an option to upgrade to two NGV Summer Friday Night tickets to enjoy the exhibition after hours with live music, DJs, dining and bars. Prices start from $335 until April 25, 2022. See: melbournelittlequeenstreet.hilton.com

Art Everywhere

The most exciting exhibitions all around Australia.

Elvis: Direct from Graceland 

A comprehensive biographical exhibition of Elvis and all his madness, with more than 300 authentic artefacts once owned by the man himself. Showing March 19 to July 17 at Bendigo Art Gallery.

Who are you: Australian Portraiture 

A huge collection of various portraiture that brings together the best of the National Gallery of Victoria and the National Portrait Gallery of Canberra, showing in Melbourne from March 25 to August 21 and Canberra from October 1 onwards.

Matisse: Life & Spirit Masterpieces from the Centre Pompidou, Paris

Until March 13 you can still catch this Art Gallery of NSW exhibition that spans the career of Matisse. 

David Malangi Daymirringu: Artist Room, MCA Collection

This exhibition features a large selection of works by master bark painter David Malangi Daymirringu, spanning 34 years of work that demonstrates his connection to central Arnhem Land, showing at the MCA until March 6. 

The Spirits of the Pumpkins Descended into the Heavens

From April 1 at AGSA, you can lay your eyes on Yayoi Kusama’s ‘The Spirits of the Pumpkins Descended into the Heavens’, a room-spanning installation around the idea of endless space.

Vivienne Binns: On and through the Surface

Co-curated by the MUMA in Melbourne and MCA in Sydney, this experimental work covers cultural spaces from women’s liberation to Australia’s regional footprint. See it in Melbourne from February 5 to April 14 and Sydney from July 15 to September 25. 

The striking work of Yayoi Kusama.

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