Coco Chanel: Unbuttoned: Your guide to the BBC documentary


With the V&A’s Gabrielle Chanel. Fashion Manifesto set to be the blockbuster exhibition of the autumn, BBC Arts has the perfect primer in the form of Coco Chanel: Unbuttoned.

Airing on BBC Two on the 15th September, this feature-length Arena documentary reacquaints us with key biographical details from Mademoiselle Chanel’s life, demonstrating powerfully how the deprivations and loneliness of her childhood, her experiences of love and grief, and circle of high society and artistic friends, forged the kind of formidable character capable of building one of the world’s most recognisable luxury brands.

Many of us are familiar with Chanel’s story as one of the definitive ‘rags to riches’ tales of the 20th century. To tell the story afresh, this documentary brings together the perspectives of Gabrielle’s biographers (including Justine Picardie and Rhonda Garelick) as well as experts from the worlds of curation and journalism to reveal a sometimes ambiguous and complex woman who should be regarded as the first “influencer” – both in the way that she promoted her own product (most notably, Chanel No. 5) and how wary she was of revealing the true details of her background.

As well as tours of the convent at which she was deposited after her mother’s death, and Chanel’s Rue Cambon apartment, we get a tantalising glimpse at the Chanel archive housed somewhere undisclosed “north of Paris”. There is a charming moment with Jerry Hall and daughter Georgia Jagger speaking about what Chanel means to them, as well as brilliant anecdotes from former Chanel models and colleagues. For ‘Coco’ Chanel fans and fashion lovers it is not to be missed.

How can I watch Coco Chanel: Unbuttoned?

Coco Chanel: Unbuttoned will air on BBC Two on 15th September and will be available on BBC iPlayer.