Chanel: A Woman of Her Own by Alex Madsen
The opening sentence of the book is, “She made up things.” Some facts about Coco Chanel’s life may vary depending on which biography you read or what interview you saw, but Alex Madsen listed close to 100 references for the contents of this book. He also provides different variations of incidents, conversations and details. One thing is certain however, Coco Chanel was a fascinating woman… one of the most influential women to ever work in the fashion industry.
Gabrielle (Coco) Chanel was born in a “poorhouse hospice”. Her mother died when Coco was 12 years old. Her father abandoned the family, leaving Coco and her siblings to be raised by nuns and extended family. Chanel tells the incredible story of Coco’s meager childhood, her self-discovery of an innate sense of what looks good on women, and her successful career capitalizing on that information: hats, sportswear, the first use of jersey in everyday clothes, the first bathing suit, furs, animal prints, pearls, the “suit”, a crisp white shirt, the little black dress, a revolutionary still popular perfume, and much more.
She believed in sophisticated simplicity. In the 1920’s Coco Chanel said, “Fashion is not something that exists in dresses only; fashion is something in the air… it’s in the wind… you feel it coming, you smell it. Fashion is in the sky, in the street; fashion has to do with ideas, the way we live, what is happening.”
Coco Chanel mixed with royalty (Churchill and members of the Romanov family), famed artists (Picasso), musicians (an affair with Igor Stravinsky), and the Hollywood elite. Some of her many acquaintances were models for Proust’s characters in his series In Search of Lost Time.
At the peak of her career when very few women even had careers, she employed 3000 seamstresses and was worth over $1,000,000,000 (yes 1 billion) when she died. This book tells it all… not just Chanel’s success in the fashion industry, but also her personal triumphs and failures, complete with details about her family, friends, lovers, and rivals.
Alex Madsen did a great job of gathering all the material and composing the facts into a fascinating profile and thorough biography of Gabrielle Chanel.
Rated 4.5 Stars.
All contents © 2014 Lois Weisberg. All rights reserved.