Coco Chanel was a French fashion designer from the last century. Together with Paul Poiret, she changed the fashion image after the first world challenge by competing for more freedom of movement for the woman. No more tight corsets but a sporty fashion with a casual look. Her influence goes beyond couture clothing. She also produced designer jewelry, handbags, and perfume.
Gabrielle Bonheur “Coco” Chanel was born in 1883 from an unmarried mother, Jeanne Devolle. She worked in the laundry of a charity hospital. Coco Chanel was her second type with Albert Chanel, a street vendor of workwear and underwear. The parents of Coco Chanel married in 1884. They had five children together.
Chanel’s mother died when Gabrielle was twelve. Her father sent his two sons to a farm to work there and his three daughters to a monastery in the department of Corrège, which ran an orphanage. Coco Chanel learned how to sew. When she was 18 she left the home to live in a guest house for Catholic girls in the town of Moulins. In her later life, she tells a slightly different version of her childhood.
She found work as a seamstress. Outside her working hours in a cabaret where she is named “Coco”. She was able to amuse the people, but she did not have the right voice to work as a manager. After a less successful start in Vichy in 1906, she found work as a donor of water. When it was evaluated, it was that she did not have her future in running.
Starting fashion designer
In Moulins, Chanel met the ex-cavalry officer and textile-healer, Étienne Balsan. When she was twenty-three, she became his mistress and went to live with him in his castle Royallieu near Compiègne for a number of years. It was a wooded area with bridle paths and exuberant hunting life where she is a luxurious life that bordered on the decadent. According to biographer Justine Picardie, she had committed herself. Later, her lover (from 1908) arranged Capel to go to a boarding school in England.
Polo player Capel was a friend of Balsan and also a rich cover of the English upper class. Two lovers were one too many for Chanel. Capel installed her in an apartment in Paris and financed her first boutiques. His clothing, especially his blazers, inspired the “Chanel look”. Also found the bottle design for Chanel No. 5 is based on the design of one of Capel’s personal items. Whether the line of Charvet toilet bottles in his learn travel case of the design of the Capel’s whiskey carafe, she wanted to reproduce them inexpensive, delicate glass. Together with Capel, she was regularly in fashionable resorts such as Deauville. But while Chanel hopes for a lasting relationship, Capel has never been loyal to her. After nine years he married an English aristocrat. He did not break with Chanel anymore, but it did not last long. Chanel would have dedicated a memorial to him at the place along the road where the accident had happened. Twenty-five years after the event, in Switzerland, Chanel trusted her friend Paul Morand how important Capel had been to her and how hard death had been for her. The last few years have been anything but a happy period.
Chanel had begun to make hats at Balsan. It started as a diversion but soon became commercial. In 1910 she got a licensed modiste and she opened a boutique on Rue Cambon 21 in Paris, called Chanel Modes. Because this address housed a business clothing store, Chanel sold only her creations of fashion products here. Her designer career began to flourish when theater actress Gabrielle Dorziat wore her hats in Fernand Nozières play “Bel Ami” in 1912. Later, Dorziat once again wore Chanel’s hats on photos in “Les Modes”.
Coco Chanel as established seamstress
In 1918 Chanel bought a building in one of the most fashionable districts of Paris? She opened a fashion boutique with clothing, hats, and accessories, later expanded to include jewelry and perfume. In 1927, Chanel owned the five buildings from number 23 to 31 in the same street, rue Cambon in Paris.
In the spring of 1920, Chanel met the Russian composer Igor Stravinsky. After the war, the Stravinsky family had left the Soviet Union and sought a home. Coco Chanel suggested they stay with her in “Bel Respiro”, her home in the Paris suburb of Garches until they found a suitable home. They stayed there for eight months until May 1921. They also garnered the new (1920) production of Ballets Russes from Le Sacre du Printemps by Stravinsky (‘The Rite of Spring’), albeit with a loss of 300,000 francs. In addition to her own couture collections, Chanel now also designed dance costumes for the Ballets Russes. In the years 1923-1937 she worked on Train bleu and Orphée and Oedipe Roi for productions by Diaghilev with dancer Vaslav Nijinsky.
In 1922, at the Longchamps races, the founder of the Parisian Galeries Lafayette introduced her to businessman Pierre Wertheimer who was interested in selling Chanel No. 5 in his department store. In 1924, Chanel signed an agreement with the Wertheimer brothers, Pierre and Paul, the directors of the cosmetics house Bourjois. They created the legal entity Perfumes Chanel, where the Wertheimer agreed to provide full financing for the production, marketing, and distribution of Chanel No. 5. They themselves would receive seventy percent of the profits, Théophile Bader twenty percent and for the remaining 10% Chanel gave her name license to Perfumes Chanel and withdrew from the business operations. Unhappy with this appointment, Chanel later worked more than twenty years to get full control of Chanel Perfumes. She called Pierre Wertheimer a bandit who fucked her.
One of Chanel’s longest-lasting contacts was that with Misia Sert, a member of the Bohemian elite in Paris. She was also the wife of the Spanish painter José-Maria Sert. Misia was attracted to Chanel by her genius, deadly humor, sarcasm, and manic destructiveness. Both women had also attended school in the monastery and shared drug use. Chanel was a morphine addict from 1935 and would remain so for the rest of her life.
Chanel’s associations with British aristocrats
Vera Bate Lombardi, according to the illegitimate daughter of the Marquis of Cambridge, in 1923 gave Chanel access to an elite circle of the British aristocracy. The members revolved around figures like the politician Winston Churchill, aristocrats such as the Duke of Westminster and royals such as Edward, Prince of Wales. In Monte Carlo in 1923, at the age of forty, Chanel was presented by Lombardi to the enormously rich Duke of Westminster, Hugh Richard Arthur Grosvenor, known to his intimates as “Bender”. The duke decorated Chanel with extravagant jewelry, precious art and a home in the prestigious Mayfair district of London. His affair with Chanel lasted ten years.
The duke reinforced Chanel’s hatred of Jews. Their homophobia already had in common. At the same time, Lombardi also led her to her cousin, the Prince of Wales, Edward VIII. Chanel would have beaten and chased despite her involvement with the Duke. In 1927, this Duke Chanel donated a piece of land in Roquebrune-Cap-Martin on the French Riviera. That is where Chanel built villa La Pausa (‘quiet silence’) with architect Robert Streitz. A number of elements of Streitz’s concept were inspired by Aubazine, the orphanage where Chanel spent her childhood.
Chanel’s film designs.
Through Grand Duke Dmitri Pavlovich, nephew of the last Tsar of Russia, Nicolas II, Chanel met Samuel Goldwyn in Monte Carlo in 1931. Goldwyn offered Chanel to pay her for a million dollars (about US $ 75 million today) twice a year. Hollywood to create costumes for MGM stars. Chanel accepted the offer and left for Hollywood with her friend, Misia Sert.
On her way to California from New York in 1932, traveling in a for her luxuriously equipped white train carriage, Chanel underwent an interview for the magazine Colliers. She claimed to go to Hollywood to look at photos to see what they had to offer and what she herself had to offer the photos. Chanel designed the clothes for Gloria Swanson, in “Tonight or Never (1931)” and for Ina Claire in “The Greeks Had a Word for Them (1932)”. both actresses became her private customers.
But the American film hated Chanel to the Hollywood film industry and an aversion to the culture of the film world. She even called it ‘infantile’. She called Hollywood Hollywood the capital of bad taste and vulgar. Eventually, her designs were less suitable for the film. According to the New Yorker, Chanel left Hollywood because they said her dresses were not sensational enough. Chanel now worked for the French film. for Jean Renoir’s “La Règle du jeu (1939)” in which she was credited as La Maison Chanel. Chanel introduced the left-hand Renoir to Luchino Visconti, after which Visconti worked on Renoir’s next film project.
Reverdy and Iribe
Although she was never married, Chanel was the mistress of some of the most influential men of her time. She had a relationship with the poet Pierre Reverdy and the illustrator and designer Paul Iribe. Mat the latter she has a friendly relationship of forty years after the end of their romance.
Reverdy corrected the aphorisms that Chanel wrote about her craft and added a number of thoughts of a more general nature.
Iribe and Chanel shared the same reactionary policy. Chanel financed Iribe’s newsletter, Le Témoin, which, among other things, preached anti-Semitism. Iribe stuff suddenly in 1935 after which Le Témoin with the publication stopped. In 1936 Chanel turned to an opposite ideology by financing Pierre Lestringuez’s radical left-wing magazine “Futur”.
Rivalry with Schiaparelli
The Chanel couture was profitable and provided work for 4,000 people by 1935. But in the course of the 1930s, her success was overshadowed by that of Schiaparelli. Chanel’s flapper appearance from the 1920s seemed to have disappeared from one day to the next. Hollywood had not been a success for her. And for the designs for the play ‘Oedipus Rex’ by Jean Cocteau she was simply mocked. The criticism was: “Packaged in connection the actors seem ambulatory mummies or victims of a terrible accident.” On the other hand, Schiaparelli’s designs were innovative with surreal influence, which the fashion world enthusiastically voted for. Schiaparelli worked with Salvador Dali on costumes for the Ballets Russes de Monte Carlo. Until September 3, 1030. The second World War had begun. Chanel closed her shops law the words that war is not a time axis for couture.
Coco Chanel after the war
In 1945, Chanel moved to Switzerland. Part-time she still lived there with Dincklage, German diplomat with whom she had started a liaison during the war. In 1953 she sold her villa La Pausa to Emery Reeves, publisher and translator.
After the war, the male part of the population came more to the fore in the couture world. In 1947 it was Christian Dior’s ‘new look’ that was most directing. But not Dior alone, Cristóbal Balenciaga, Robert Piguet, and Jacques Fath also received recognition. Chanel was convinced that women would eventually rebel against the aesthetic preference of male couturiers: the waist cinchers, padded bras, heavy skirts, and reinforced jackets. Just because she found it illogical.
Seventy years old she thought it was time to step back into the fashion world. Her fashion house in Paris remained closed for 15 years. The revival in 1954 was fully funded by Chanel’s opponent in the perfume battle, Pierre Wertheimer. The French press was cautious about its come-back collection in 1954 because of its war activities and the controversy of the collection. But the American and British press saw it as a “breakthrough”, in which fashion and youth came together in a new way. Bettina Ballard, the influential chief editor of the American Vogue, remained loyal to Chanel and showed the model Marie-Hélène Arnaud in the March 1954 issue in three different outfits. The photography of Henry Clarke indeed shows a red dress with a V-neck combined with ropes with pearls, a tiered seersucker evening gown and a half-high tracksuit from navy jersey. Ballard of Vogue VS had bought the suit himself, after which the orders for the clothing worn by Arnaud had flown out of the US.
Chanel eventually becomes extremely lonely. She had some friends with whom she shared happy memories of the Duke of Westminster and with whom she often walked together through central Paris. At the age of eighty-seven, Chanel was old, tired and ill. She carried out her usual routine when compiling the spring catalog. She had been on a long ride on Saturday afternoon, January 9. Shortly afterward she felt sick and went to bed early. She died in Hotel Ritz on Sunday, January 10, 1971, where she had lived for more than 30 years.
During her funeral in the Église de la Madeleine, her models of photography occupy the first row of chairs. Her coffin was covered with white flowers – camellias, gardenias, orchids, azaleas, and a few red roses. Her infamous style. Her grave is located on the Bois-de-Vaux cemetery, Lausanne, Switzerland. Most of her estate went to her cousin André Palasse.
After her death
Chanel’s influence was examined after her death in 1971. Even though the First Lady of France, Mme Pompidou had organized a tribute to the heroine. The release of harmful documents from the French intelligence services about Chanel’s wartime put an end to these monumental burial plans.
The secret life of Coco Chanel (Telegraph.co.uk)
Sleeping with the enemy by Hal Vaughan (Washingtonpost.com)