Thursday, November 29, 2012

Coco Chanel

I have just finished reading Coco Chanel: The Legend and the Life by Justine Picardie.  It was an easy read, full of pictures of people, places and things.  What's not to like about this self-made legend.

Born to poor parents, orphaned at 12, essentially abandoned by her father to a convent, she learned her craft of sewing and handiwork very young.  It would serve her well at 18 when she had to leave the convent and had to find work.

Enter the first of many well-known, prosperous and/or talented men into her life: Étienne Balsan.  He would be the first to give her the time and space she needed to break through to her creative talent.  Her second man Boy Capel would help launch the Chanel house on rue Cambon that is still in place today in Paris.

Not an exceptionally beautiful woman, Coco had an abundance of dark curly hair and a gamine body, a kind of clothes-horse frame that looked good in most clothes. She was well dressed and lady-like and athletic and very hard-working. She had very strong opinions and did not hesitate to voice them.  She liked men but never married.  This book hints that she was lonely in old-age and regretted her single life.

This is a great rags to riches story of a force of nature who single single-handedly revolutionized fashion and built an empire. (300 stores world wide and a 3 billion dollar a year industry) This was a fascinating look into an amazingly powerful and visionary woman and it is worth reading if not for her life story then for a look at the cast of friends, lovers and houses that entered and exited it.

Four stars out of five.



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