If I was to look up to one woman in fashion religiously, it would inevitably have to be Gabrielle Chanel. She was not only the designer who revolutionized fashion, famously gave women freedom through clothing as Pierre Bergé once said ‘’Chanel gave women freedom, Yves (Saint Laurent) gave them power’’, but she was above all such a strong personality. If we look at Coco Chanel as a woman, she is almost like a brand with such a strong identity that even mistakes are regarded as intentional abstractions.
I look up to this woman in every way, and as a student, still hold savings for pieces of the heaven she created. My make up table consists of the ‘must have’ Mademoiselle Eau de Parfum, red nail polish, many shades of lipsticks, mascaras, foundations, concealers. They got it all right from the start, even the make-up! It also consists of books, articles, cut-out ads, photos and fake-pearl rows inspired by Coco Chanel. All the words of this world could not size down the magnitude of her persona. And even if they could, we will never know it’s limits as it is known that she was a very mysterious woman who kept her secrets well.
Recently I read an article by Justine Picardie on “The Secret life of Coco Chanel” and some of the sentences gave me chills, yet some made me re-read and re-read the words written. And finally, it made me add the “J. Picardie- Biography of Coco Chanel” book to my check list.
One thing stayed with me from this long article, and that is the anecdote about Chanel’s handling of infidelity from one of her great loves, The Duke of Westminster. Quoting Picardie’s words on the matter: “But the angry sound of arguments between the Duke and Chanel began to disturb the peace of La Pausa, waking up the other guests in the night; and when she joined him on the Flying Cloud the rows continued, always about his infidelities and her humiliation. Once, when Bendor tried to make amends for an affair that Chanel had discovered by giving her a large emerald, she accepted it from him, and then, without a word, let it slip from her hands overboard into the sea.” .
How can one not admire such a woman? She cut her hair short, and smiled when being stared at in the Opera house. She didn’t care. Whether because it was simply the matter of confidence or her upbringing in the Aubazine orphanage that made so free, Coco was always a trend-setter.
Black and white –the monochrome scale, eternal elegance and the fame of many designers. A true lady with the habit of saying ””Black and white together-because one cannot exist without the other, because they are the signature of Chanel”. Very often it is said that the inspiration for the famous b&w tweed costume and the ‘bi-colored’ shoes came to Gabrielle from the days of childhood spent in the Aubazine orphanage in Corrèze where she and her sister were left by their father when Chanel was still a child. And of course, even the very fabric that Chanel made famous carries the name after the eponymous creator of the costume, the ‘Chanel Tweed’.
This fashion icon often used a palette of colors repetitively and a video under the name ‘ The Colors- Inside Chanel’ was made under the careful eye of the main designer of Maison Chanel, Karl Lagerfeld.
Starting from the very nick-name, Mademoiselle Chanel, some of you will instantly think of the famous perfume of this fashion house, however behind this name hides the melancholic love story of Coco Chanel. Never married, eternal lover to men and always mysterious, moreover a bit superstitious woman –an unusual bond of a lady and adventurer, especially extravagant for the time she lived in. And, voila!, this is where the name ”Mademoiselle” came from. A title usually used for younger, single ladies which in years to come will become a ”Madame”, what Gabrielle never experienced.
Year 1910: Gabrielle is madly in love with Arthur ”Boy” Chapel, her first and biggest love whom she loses in close-future to come, and the millinery shop under the name ”Chanel Modes” opens in the chic Parisian location ’21 Rue Cambon’. Infatuated with the Chanel hats, the French ladies buy, buy and buy more! With the financial help of her great love, Chanel opens her first couture shop very quickly.
We are already in 1913 u Deauville –a chic sports resort which opens the door of ‘big incomes’ for the young designer.
The time flies quickly as Gabrielle opens another boutique in 1918 in Biarritz, which unfortunately closes it’s door in 1939 due to the war, and sadly only leaves a modest bookstore in the same location today, which does nothing to remind us of this giant in the fashion industry. The same year, another boutique is opened in Paris, only 10 numbers down the street from the first one, 31 Rue Cambon-Chanel is taking over the fashion industry spot light. On the same location, very near to the famous Louvre museum is the apartment of Coco Chanel.
We are already in 1925. The Chanel famous logo composed of two interlocked C’s facing opposite sides, is made. Today, there is lots of discussion as to where the inspiration came from, as some say that Coco copied the pattern that came as the sun shone through the windows of the orphanage’s church and created shapes on the floor. Some say that she went to visit her friend Irène Bretz in 1923 in the castle she just bought, Château de Crematwhose logo with no discussion looks a lot as what we know to be today’s MaisonChanel’s trademark. But, I choose to believe that the true story is the version in which Coco decided to lock her love with Arthur as she put the initials for ‘’Chanel & Chapel’’, two eternal C’s.
However it may be, Chanel created the trend of using jersey fabric, costume jewelry, wearing pants as a woman, little black dress and a lot more. All that we can say, is that the legend was born and she conquered the world of fashion and the hearts of woman. She was a true Super Woman.