New York. Paris. Tokyo. Peckham. Chanel unveil a scent installation in the most unlikely of settings (and you really need to get there)

Exciting things are happening at Chanel since Olivier Polge arrived.
And exciting things are happening in unexpected places. Like Peckham. Where we found ourselves this morning in the ‘Mirror Maze’, an art installation created by Es Devlin OBE in partnership with i-D and Chanel. With unrivalled experience in film, fashion, opera, dance and theatre, Devlin’s designed sets for the Metropolitan Opera House and the Donmar Warehouse, for tours by musicians from Kanye West to Adele, and the opening ceremonies for the London and Rio Olympics. (It really doesn’t get much cooler than that.)
The Mirror Maze is basically four rooms – each resonant with the universe of Chanel. A set created in a vast south London warehouse, it’s literally like entering another world. It’s the first staging post for a global project – and one of the figures involved in the venture is i-D’s Commercial Creative Director Bunny Kinney. Why Peckham? Apart from the edginess which Es Devlin likes (and which reminds us of Williamsburg a decade ago), it’s just down the road from her studio.
photo-20-09-2016-12-34-23But let’s lead you by the hand… Into the first room: on a floor-to-high-ceiling screen, watch a seamstress create a pattern with tailor’s chalk, around an oval hole in the wall. The extraordinary interactive online (here) actually enables you to become part of the film, uploading a photo of yourself to fill the face-shaped hole… (No, we can’t quite believe we’re living in a world in which that’s possible, either.)
Step through the hole and climb the grey carpeted stairs, with their faceted mirrors – almost exactly like ascending the staircase to Chanel‘s atelier on Rue Cambon. Soft underfoot. Here, you’ll start enjoying the first soft whispers of the Mirror Maze scent exclusively created by second-generation Chanel ‘nose’ Olivier Polge for this exhibition. Get lost in the maze. You will, honestly. It’s seriously disconcerting – reflecting Es Devlin‘s feelings about scent, which make her feel almost as if she’s falling.
And if you think that’s disorientating, wait till you walk onto a patent leather ‘pontoon’ reaching out towards a curved wall, on which videos compiled by Es from her own movies have been spliced together. It’s like being on a carousel. Or a roller coaster. (We hope Chanel have lifeguards on hand to rescue the amazed visitors who accidentally step off into the glass-like pools of water around the pontoon.) There’s an explosion of redness – one of Chanel’s signature colours…
Then it’s back into the maze – and through into the huge, red (that colour again) hall of scent. No mirrors here – an allusion, Es told us, ‘to the convent where Gabrielle Chanel grew up – and where there were no mirrors allowed.’ (Which makes us wonder: is that why she became so obsessed with them, in later years…?
Here, you really breathe a miasma of Olivier Polge‘s fabulous scent. Neroli. Jasmine. Ylang ylang. It’s basically a Chanel fog, pumped out by the machine you can see below. And it’s sublime. Smiled Es, as she showed us around: it’s exactly that ephemeral quality she likes about her work. ‘It’s there – and then it’s not. Destroyed. Gone.’
The designer didn’t grow up wearing scent at all. ‘I was non-conformist. Basically, a pikey growing up in Kent. I thought wearing scent was conformist.’ She’s changed her mind, since working on this project – immersing herself in the life of Chanel, via Justine Picardie‘s biography, among other research resources.
But still, Es Devlin smiles, ‘I love the fact that if you want to smell Mirror Maze, you have to get to Peckham in the next five days…’
So: go. Basically, if you can get yourself to south London in the next few days (it’s open until  25th September in Peckham’s Copeland Park Business Park), do.
Because trust us – and as unlikely as it sounds – Peckham just became the coolest place on the planet.
Find the film here 
Chanel Mirror Maze, Copeland Park, Peckham, London SE15 3SN
Opening times: Wednesday to Sunday 12 midday to 8pm (10 pm Friday and Saturday)