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Discussion in 'In the News...' started by farou7a, Sep 17, 2010.
Thank you!! I will try to get a copy!!
This should be an interesting read
what makes this different from all the other bios written about chanel? i'm genuinely curious because i've read a very long bio about her before and her life was such a mystery it's full of speculations, i wonder what new info this one brings?
^ thats exactly why im intrigued.
Coco Chanel: The Legend and the Life
Sleek. Chic. Notoriously guarded. Welcome to the secret world of Gabrielle Chanel.
The story of Chanel begins with an abandoned child, as lost as a girl in a dark fairy tale. Unveiling remarkable new details about Gabrielle Chanel's early years in a convent orphanage, and her flight into unconventional adulthood, Justine Picardie explores what lies beneath the glossy surface of a mythic fashion icon.
Throwing new light on her passionate and turbulent relationships, this beautifully constructed portrait gives a fresh and penetrating look at how Coco Chanel made herself into her own most powerful creation. An authoritative account, based on personal observations and interviews with Chanel's last surviving friends, employees, and relatives, it also unravels her coded language and symbols, and traces the influence of her formative years on her legendary style.
Feared and revered by the rest of the fashion industry, Coco Chanel died in 1971 at the age of eighty-seven. But her legacy lives on. Justine Picardie brings Gabrielle Chanel out of hiding and uncovers the consequences of what Chanel covered up, unpicking the seams between truth and myth in a story that reveals the true heart of fashion.
This sounds nice
^ Welcome! I am rereading Edmonde Charles-Roux's first book- by the time I get through it again I may be able to order this one!
i still havent read that.
^ It is a great book- but a tough read sometimes for me, which I think is because of a difficult translation from the original French...but I am amazed at the details she dug up for the book that I never knew...Like Coty may have had Chanel No5 put together before Coco got it; the inventor left the company and came to Coco with the idea because he was afraid Coty would never produce it...!! B)
^ oh wow i should read that one!!!!
I'm definitely going to buy this today and read it all, in probably one night hah.
Anybody who reads it should post reviews.
While I order my own copy Id like to see what you all think.
^ Or just, you know, scan it and post the pages..it's only a couple of hundred pages, right? Shouldn't take too long...
best idea so far
From the TelegraphUK:
Coco Chanel: The Legend and the Life by Justine Picardie: review
Coco Chanel is brought out of hiding, says Frances Wilson, as she admires Justine Picardie's new biography of the elusive designer
Clothes, for Coco Channel, were for freedom and forgetting. Women should be able to walk, to drive, to ride their bicycles and to forget what they are wearing. She replaced whalebone corsets and bird’s nest hats with loose trousers, Breton tops and sailor blouses, clothes that “women can live in, breath in, feel comfortable in and look young in”. The baroque evening gown was exchanged for that little black dress, worn with a single string of pearls.
“Extravagant things didn’t suit me,” Chanel said, meaning that extravagant things didn’t suit any woman. Black, however, “wipes out everything else around”. It is the “absence of colours”, Chanel explained in one of her dazzling artistic statements, which has “absolute beauty”.
But as Justine Picardie shows in this elegant book, the figure who introduced simplicity into women’s wardrobes was far from simple herself. Gabrielle Chanel was born in a poorhouse in 1883; her parents were unmarried and, according to Chanel, when she was six, her mother, Jeanne, died of tuberculosis. Picardie suggests that Jeanne in fact died of “poverty, pregnancy and pneumonia” when her daughter was 11.
According to Chanel, her father then left her in the care of two spinster aunts; he in fact placed her in a convent in the medieval village of Aubazine. Chanel says that he was in his late twenties when he abandoned her; he was approaching 40.
Throughout her life, Chanel referred to herself as a poor child and she doctored her age on her passport; another poor child, Andre, who was left in her care, may have been her nephew or he may have been her son. “I don’t know anything more terrifying than the family,” Chanel once said, “you’re born in it, not of it”, and she reworked her own past history as she would remodel an outfit, trimming, unpicking, restitching. The austerity and purity of her life in the convent, however, found its way into her designs.
Aged 18, Chanel left the nuns and worked in Moulins as a cabaret singer. Here she met the roué Etienne Balsan, who set her up as his mistress and introduced her to an English playboy, Boy Capel. During these years, when asked if she was happy or unhappy, she replied that she was neither; she was “hiding”, and it may have been now that Gabrielle became Coco.
Boy was her great love and her first muse; she was soon cutting up his polo clothes and turning them into the languid, androgynous style she made her own. With his financial backing, Chanel opened a hat shop in 1909 in Paris; four years later her particular chic had taken over fashionable Deauville, and by 1919, the year that Boy was killed in a car crash, she had her own Maison at 31 rue Cambon.
“I was witnessing the death of luxury,” she said of her era, but luxury had not died in the House of Chanel; it was – like Coco herself – hiding.
Her straight, utilitarian skirts and jersey jackets struck the right note during the years of the Great War, just as the Chanel suit has defined the independent woman since the mid-Fifties.
When Chanel No 5 was introduced in 1921, she became an international brand, but the perfume’s origins are as embroidered as her childhood.
Coco claimed that following the death of Boy, she took refuge in the Côte d’Azur where, breathing in the flowers, she invented the perfume. It was actually created by a perfumer called Ernest Beaux, who was introduced to Chanel by her then lover, the Grand Duke Dmitri Pavlovich. Sales figures were helped when Marilyn Monroe announced that No 5 was all she wore to bed.
Chanel’s lovers accumulated, each grander and less faithful than the last. An affair with the Duke of Westminster led to a friendship with Winston Churchill, which helped when she was involved with a German officer during the occupation.
Other friends included Stravinsky and the Russian impresario Diaghilev; her best friend was a perfect minx called Misia Sert, who inspired Mallarmé, Proust, Debussy and Ravel, and was painted by Renoir, Vuillard, Lautrec and Bonnard.
Their semi-erotic, highly competitive intimacy contained more energy and emotion than all of Coco’s other relationships put together. “Where Misia has once loved,” she concluded, “the grass doesn’t grow anymore.”
The Chanel uncovered by Picardie is a storyteller. She spun her own myth, but each of her creations was a story as well and each contains a story.
The most famous perhaps is the vivid pink Chanel suit worn by Jackie Kennedy in Dallas on November 22 1963, which she didn’t remove for a day and a night, and is now in storage, still caked in the blood of her husband.
“Fashion,” Chanel said, “should die and die quickly”, but the icon of fashion lived on through the century, dying when she was 87.
She had achieved her freedom, but was Coco happy or unhappy? It’s hard to tell, but she has at least, in these pages, come out of hiding.
BIOGRAPHY: DEIRDRE McQUILLAN reviews
Coco Chanel: The Legend and the Life By Justine Picardie,
Harper Collins, 343pp, £25
SOME YEARS AGO, on holiday in France, I found myself in Saumur, famous for its wine and distinguished French cavalry school, the Cadre Noir, whose handsome cockaded equestrians could occasionally be glimpsed crossing the town’s narrow streets. Stopping in an elegant boutique, I asked the vendeuse where Coco Chanel was born, and if there was a plaque or any information. “Madame,” she replied dismissively, “here in Saumur they are more interested in horses than in Chanel.”
Nevertheless, curiosity about Chanel, “the exterminating angel of 19th-century style” as Paul Morand so eloquently put it, continues, and horses, she once told him, had influenced the course of her life. With so many biopics, books and even a musical about the famous couturier, here is yet another attempt to throw light on a woman who not only made fashion history but also continuously fabricated myths about her life and origins.
Given Morand’s bittersweet portrait in The Allure of Chanel and the acknowledged authority of biographies by Marcel Haedrich and Edmonde Charles-Roux, this was quite a challenge for Justine Picardie, a former features editor of Vogue and not a historian. Picardie had some notable advantages, however. One was official access to the Chanel archives, in Paris, and to surviving relatives and employees, but she also had access to the Grosvenor family records in the UK. These revealed the details of Chanel’s celebrated liaison with the duke of Westminster, as well as her friendship with Winston Churchill and other prominent members of the British establishment during the war years.
Picardie also visited the Aubazine orphanage where the young Chanel and her sisters were left by their itinerant father after their mother’s death and uncovered the existence of Gabrielle Chanel, a direct descendant of the designer, now in her 80s and living alone outside Paris.
Chanel’s rise from poverty to become head of a business empire began with a wealthy cavalry officer who was her stepping stone to another world, the first of many men who would play a significant role in her life. Étienne Balsan introduced her to a pleasure-seeking social milieu and the rich English playboy Boy Capel, who became her lover and financial backer. Picardie describes Chanel’s beginnings as a milliner, her ability to express the mood of the time in her clothes (wartime restrictions made her an early recycler), the origin of the little black dress and, later, other iconic Chanel items, like the tweed suits and quilted bags.
But it was Chanel No 5 that brought her huge commercial success and, more importantly, further enriched the powerful, publicity-shy Wertheimher family, who made the fragrance and were, eventually, to buy her out. The account of Chanel’s frustrated attempts to gain a greater percentage of the rewards is one of the most interesting in the book.
Her svelte figure and chic garçonne look, her way of appropriating elements of male attire in an insouciant way and her extravagant use of costume jewellery made Chanel the best advertisement for her clothes and accessories. Picardie gives a good account of the social circles in which she moved, her literary and artistic friendships with people such as Paul Iribe, Paul Reverdy and Misia Sert, and her political entanglements during the German occupation and subsequent exile in Switzerland.
What’s well documented is the relationship with the immensely wealthy duke of Westminster, known as Bendor, with whom she fished, hunted, sailed, rode and entertained, establishing her status in the British upper classes. The rich are attracted to things that can’t be bought, like wit and creative brilliance, and Chanel was obviously not only a good sport but also a great catch. Churchill wrote to his wife that she “is vy agreeable – really a gt and strong being fit to rule a man or an Empire. Bennie [Bendor] extremely happy to be mated with an equal – her ability balancing his power.” Even today, in Mayfair, old lamp posts embossed with double Cs are a memento of the couple’s long but eventually doomed union.
Chanel’s relationship at the age of 58 with a German embassy attache in Paris 13 years her junior was to lead to persistent accusations that she was a Nazi collaborator. Picardie attempts to decipher the murkier details of this period, citing police and intelligence records, but doesn’t come to firm conclusions. The controversial decision to shut down her business on the declaration of war, in 1939, and her quick release from questioning after the liberation, avoiding the épuration sauvage , when women who had collaborated with the Germans were savagely treated, has been the subject of speculation. Malcolm Muggeridge, then an MI6 officer, describes how Chanel put an announcement in her window that scent was free for GIs; they queued up to get their bottles of No 5 “and would have been outraged if the French police had touched a hair of her head”.
Her subsequent comeback after the war and the devastating reception of her collection by the French press was counteracted by the enthusiasm of the US market. It made her famous again. “The comfortable suits and dresses . . . proved far more popular than anyone had predicted and orders came flooding in from the US. The 2.55 quilted bag made its appearance in 1955 and elements of her style became globally recognised, her fame keeping pace with that of her clients.” The vivid pink Chanel suit that Jackie Kennedy was wearing when her husband was assassinated became a bloodstained emblem of that moment in history.
Some wonderful, hitherto unpublished pictures of Chanel from private albums show her as animated and fun-loving, looking modern and fresh even to 21st-century eyes.
The book is weakest in the overblown descriptions of her private rooms on Rue Cambon, the Ritz and the atmosphere of the Aubazine orphanage. “Scissors” describes her work practices, including her hatred of long hair, her exactitude and rigour in fitting a suit or dress, and her final days, when morphine helped to dull the pain of loneliness and old age. Gabrielle Chanel died on January 9th, 1971, at the age of 87, and was buried in Lausanne.