Northern Women in Chanel

SlideshowReporting from Sweden, Johanna Björk shares the fascinating story behind the creation of a new book on Chanel.

In 2010, photographer-stylist couple Peter Farago and Ingela Klemetz-Farago were given full access to the coveted Chanel archives, which contains couture treasures from the 1920s through today – a dream for anyone in the fashion business, as it had long been for the Klemetz-Faragos. Some of the clothing was deemed so precious it required Chanel-employed handlers to come along for the shoots.

Several well-known models from the Scandinavian and Baltic countries, such as Freja Beha Erichsen, Helena Christensen, Frida Gustavsson, Dorothea Barth-Jorgensen, Iselin Steiro, Edita Vilkeviciute, Sigrid Ågren, Suvi Koponen, Kirsi Phyronen, Carmen Kass, Siri Tollerod and Caroline Winberg, took part in the project and every creation and surrounding — each more fantastical than the other — were chosen specifically for each model.

Close to 300 looks were shot and the result can be seen in the 384-page book Northern Women in Chanel — a new staple for any vintage fashionista’s coffee table. Best of all, a portion of the proceeds goes to Save The Children, a Swedish NGO working to safeguard the rights of children across the world.

The book is accompanied by an exhibit, currently on view at Stockholm’s Fotografiska museum, where these gorgeous photographs can be admired in superscale. Fotografiska itself is worth a visit for anyone even remotely interested in photography, as it is one of the largest museums in Europe dedicated to this art form. Fotografiska is housed in a former customs building right on the water, designed by famed Architect Ferdinand Boberg in Art Noveau style. When I visited, other exhibits on view included a Robert Mapplethorpe retrospective, Chinese artist Liu Bolin’s amazing The Invisible Man and Eleanor Coppola’s Circle of Memory.

Anyone who claims that fashion photography is not art will have to reconsider after seeing this portfolio. The classic, timeless, barren and, sometimes, melancholic settings often elude a vibe that is more Bergman than Vogue. Farago is inspired by opera, dance and art, and this strongly comes through in the images, which have a certain theatricality to them. Overall, it’s a very modern take on classic fashion, the clothing looks more like it belongs in another universe than another era. My only criticism is that they would have chosen more older models; it would have been a nice way to add more character to the project and differentiate further from the fashion glossies.

All photos © Peter Farago & Ingela Klemetz-Farago

Johanna Björk

Johanna is a sustainable fashion writer currently based in Ojai, CA. Read her weekly On Trend column to learn what's new in eco fashion.