Coco Chanel: The Legend and the Life

Chanel: a name that has always cast a fascination over me. My love for fashion is closely connected to my love for Chanel, to what she has never stopped to represent to modern women from the first shop she opened until today, a century later. In the book Coco Chanel: The Legend and the Life, the writer, Justine Picardie, takes us thoroughly through the life of the woman and couturier, from Saumur, Maine-et-Loire, where Gabrielle was born, to the abbey of Aubezine, and then to Paris, 31 Rue Cambon, where Coco changed the face of fashion, made her fortune and became legendary. The book, lavishly illustrated with photographs of iconic outfits and personal portraits from Chanel’s private albums, cleverly uncovers her life, but somehow, as the pages unravelled in front of me, I realized that the mystery remained. It’s an important thread in the image she created herself, it’s a reason why the legend lives on.

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Chanel was a designer committed to modernity, she had a visionary mind and her designs were of a striking innovation, never ceasing to shape the future. It is said that she had the surest touch in fashion. Just as she had a shrewd sense for business. She was the first couturier to sell scent and to understand the potential and vital importance of the perfume industry for the fashion houses, this becoming their insurance during hard times. After having conquered Europe, it was America, not Paris, that celebrated the comeback of Chanel in 1954, after the wartime, and made her famous again, Life magazine stating that “she is already influencing everything. At 71, Gabrielle Chanel is creating more than fashion, a revolution.”

She transformed black into a celebration of chic and understood the potency of a white dress. “These women, I’m bloody well going to dress them in black…I imposed black; it’s still going strong today, for black wipes out everything else around.” “Women think of every colour, except the absence of colours. I have said that black had everything. White too. They have an absolute beauty. It’s perfect harmony. Dress women in black or white at a ball: they are the only ones you see.” But not only did she impose the elements of Chanel’s style, she imposed style, for which the fashion world and us women are eternally grateful to La Grande Mademoiselle, the Black Swan, as her friend, Cocteau, had named her.

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source: Coco Chanel: the legend and the life, images scanned by me


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