Northern Women in Chanel


Northern Women in Chanel

“From Femme Parisienne to Swedish Dalkulla”

The Swedish stylist Ingela Klementz-Farago and her husband, the Hungarian-born photographer Peter Farago is the couple behind the epic project Northern Women In Chanel.

The couple has since 2010 lead a unique collaboration with Chanel. The result is an exhibition, which was inaugurated in early July at the photographic museum Fotografiska in Stockholm, and a massive pavé coffee table book. The photo series features 45 internationally known models of Scandinavian and Baltic descent, and about 500 couture pieces from Chanel, and will during the fall and winter travel through Europe.

The project is one of a kind in more than one way. First off, the usual puppet master Uncle Karl is not in leading position. And the usual contemporary Northern beauty has been placed in a greater historical perspective, and invites the viewer for a journey through time, with many easily discernible Scandinavian cultural phenomena.

In one photo, the surrealistic innocence and beauty of Linnea Regnander and her fellow elven-like colleague is portrayed as noble women in a middle age church-environment. Whether they were in collusion with King Gustav Vasa, or simply belonged to the court, the history does not convey. In the black and white photo, featuring a giant cross, Vicky Andrén steps in to the World of Ingmar Bergman and vintage Swedish melancholia, and becomes a still frame from the director’s chef-d’oeuvre ”The 7th Seal”. An intriguing dark scenery which one rarely associates with Chanel.

That’s the true genius of this project. To bag, borrow and steal something so connected with the French national spirit and heritage, and put it into such a different context. The terms cultural exchange comes to mind. From Femme Parisienne to Swedish Dalkulla.

However, such strong historical aspects also requires a lot from the mannequins fronting the project. Except for the 42-year-old Helena Christensen, the greater lot of the models are fresh from the Runway Foetus Factory, and there is simply something about classic Chanel couture, to which a 17-year old blushing beauty cannot always do justice.

Indeed, some pieces demands the Garboesque stern superiority of Kristen McMenamy. And where is the majestic poise exuded by Ingmari Lamy when you need it the most?

Something that is easily forgotten when talking Chanel, and something that in many ways has been buried in time is that, if you are to believe Axel Madsen, author of Chanel; A Woman of her Own, the Madame herself was a lot more than cute cupcakes from Ladurée. Coco Chanel was the raging riotgrrrl of couture, decades before Kat Bjelland got her first guitar.

So, when working with this very brand, it’s crucial to always add a hint of corsage-crushing avant-garde edge, to the timeless elegance and class that is Chanel. Where many others fail (read fashion magazine’s editorials), and simply end up cooking beautiful, slightly mediocre Chanel soup, the Faragos turn out to have many bright fashion photography moments worthy of Madame Coco herself.

Petsy Von Kohler – Images courtesy Chanel