mardi 21 avril 2009

Before I head off to see Audrey's new movie

More than thirty years after her death in 1971, Coco Chanel remains one of the most fascinating figures in fashion history. There remains an abiding interest in her. Proof being that there are two new movies and a new biography coming out this year. Another welcome addition to the existing Chanel material is the recent publication by Pushkin press, for the first time in English, of Paul Morand’s L’allure de Chanel”. I was so excited to get my copy of this book sent directly from Pushkin.
The book was born from the interviews conducted by Paul Morand at the end of WWII when Chanel invited him to visit her in St. Moritz. Strangely enough, the notes were all put away in a drawer and only came to light after Chanel’s death. Lucky for us that the notes came to light when they did! The interviews are separated into different chapters where we have Chanel dishing on her great love affair with Boy Capel, her relationship with Diaghilev and Misia Sert and her often acerbic though still relevant views on work, money, fashion and women. Just consider some of her views:

“Money is probably an accursed thing, but does not our entire civilization derive from a moral concept based on evil? …Money is not attractive, its convenient. Money adds to the decorative pleasures of life but its not life.”

“Expensive jewelry does not improve the woman who wears it any more than costly fabrics woven with precious materials do; if she looks plain, she will remain so.”
Particularly pertinent in our couture obsessed days…

“….And there’s no more art of couture. Couture is a technique, a job, a business…It may be that there is an awareness of art, which is already a great deal, that it excites artists that it accompanies them in their cars, on the path to glory; that a bonnet with ribbons should be immortalized in an Ingres drawing, or a hat in a Renoir, so much the better but it’s an accident; its as if a dragonfly had mistaken Monet’s Waterlilies for the real thing and had alighted there.”
These interviews paint a fascinating picture of this woman. She was strong, sometimes harsh, fiercely hardworking and determined. Maybe because I’d just read about the Veuve Clicquot (see review under Book Reviews), but there are certainly parallels in their determination to run their respective businesses as they both saw fit. Despite such portraiture there is still an enigma about Chanel. It doesn’t help that she often gave contradicting information. Neither does this book deal with questions regarding her involvement with the Nazis during the war. I guess this was one topic that she didn’t want to talk about and it remains to be seen whether the new biography will tackle the matter. On verra!

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