A glimpse behind the glamour of the grand dame of fashion: Coco Chanel

Coco Chanel in her studio. Credit: Jean Moral/ Brigitte Moral

As London Fashion Weeks gets underway, there is a tribute of another kind to perhaps the grande dame of fashion itself - Coco Chanel. Opening today until October the 4th is an unprecedented look into the private world of one of the most famous and of course influential designer in history.

For the first time there is an exhibition of photographs of the private apartment Chanel kept in Paris until her death in 1971. And it was visual artist and filmmaker Sam Taylor-Johnson, previously Taylor-Wood, who was invited to the home to take the pictures.

Taylor-Johnson ended up spending 3 days in the famous home, above the designer's boutique, which has been left exactly as it was since she died 43 years ago.

The exhibition starts with pictures of the spectacular mirrored staircase Chanel had built which is four storeys high and allowed the designer to stand at the bottom and see what was going on on the floors above. Also there images of the salon where she would entertain close friends like Pablo Picasso and Elizabeth Taylor.

The woman who invented the little black dress, and put women in trousers, reputedly had the rooms sprayed with her signature Chanel No.5 perfume before she entered. The chandeliers are shaped with the interlocking rings that became the luxury brand's symbol. And everywhere there are crystals, and items that showed her as surprisingly superstitious, despite her tough no nonsense exterior.

There are no photographs of a kitchen or a bedroom because Chanel never had them in her home. Every night after spending the days relaxing and working in her apartment, she went to the nearby Ritz hotel to sleep.

Coco Chanel in her studio. Credit: Jean Moral/ Brigitte Moral

Taylor-Johnson who is currently making the much anticipated film version of Fifty Shades of Grey, had broken off from editing the film to come to London Saatchi Gallery to launch her exhibition. The exhibition had she told me. allowed her to "come up for air" after being immersed in making the film for a year and a half.

Her knowledge of Chanel had she admitted been confined to her lipstick before she was invited by a biographer of the designer to visit the home, which is closed to the public.

The chandeliers. Credit: Knight Ayton Management

"I felt her presence everywhere" she says, each item in her home telling a story about the owner.

She is returning to LA shortly to continue editing her film, which is based on the 100 million selling book, and which is the most talked about the film release of early next year.

That she knows will be an altogether more frenetic and noisy affair, compared with the more sedate and elegant subject matter she has been documenting for this exhibition.