December 1st, 2014Par Françoise-Claire Prodhon
Austria captivated Gabrielle Chanel with its charm, atmosphere and mountainous landscape. She loved nature, sport and outdoor activities as much as cultural events and high society: Austria offered it all. In a letter to Jean Cocteau on July 16, 1922 she wrote: "Tzara is in Tirol - seems to be feeling better and happy - perhaps I will go there too". Like many artists at that time, Tristan Tzara was there with Max Ernst and Paul Eluard, other members of the Dada movement.
Since the mid-nineteenth century, Salzburg and the Austrian Tirol had become highly desirable destinations. This popularity was confirmed in 1920, when director Max Reinhardt, composer Richard Strauss and author Hugo von Hofmannsthal created the Salzburg Festival, an annual summer operatic festival attracting a cultured and elegant audience.
In the early 1930s, Gabrielle Chanel loved to visit the famous ski station of Saint‑Moritz, and it was here that she met Baron Hubert von Pantz, a dashing Austrian aristocrat. Elegant and courtly, he had all the traits to charm Gabrielle Chanel, with whom he had a two-year affair. In these early years of the 1930s, he bought Schloss Mittersill, a castle he transformed into a prestigious luxury hotel.
Schloss Mittersill was an instant success and in 1936, the American edition of Vogue magazine referred to it as: "the most talked-of place in Austria". With his high standards and exquisite manners, Hubert von Pantz attracted high ranking guests from the elite, including the Duc de Gramont and the Marquise de Polignac; but also artists such as Marlene Dietrich, Douglas Fairbanks and Cole Porter, all drawn in by the hotel's refined atmosphere as well as its traditional character. It offered many activities, ranging from golf to hikes on the glaciers, as well as shopping, an opportunity for this swanky clientèle to buy traditional Loden garments. It was at Mittersill that Gabrielle Chanel noticed the impeccable jackets worn by the hotel's elevator operators… A garment that she would remember in the early 1950s, when she created the iconic jacket of the Chanel suit, worn in 1961 by her friend, Austrian-born actress Romy Schneider...
The actress Romy Schneider during a fitting with Gabrielle Chanel in 1961
Photo Giancarlo Botti ©BOTTI/STILLS/GAMMA
August 18th, 2014Par Françoise-Claire Prodhon
1913: The Normandy coast with its expansive gray-blue skies and beaches still resembled the representations depicted by Eugène Boudin and the Impressionists at the turn of the 19th century... There was no swimming, or very little at most... Visitors splashed about or baited for shrimp, and the more elegant among them were seated under their parasols or withdrew into their canvas sun tents, wearing the same restrictive outfits on the sand as they wore in town. All of them were still unaware that a revolution was underway...
1913 was the year when Coco Chanel chose to open her first fashion boutique on rue Gontaut-Biron in Deauville.
This young woman, who successfully opened her first hat store in 1910 called "Chanel Modes" located at 21 rue Cambon in Paris, had established a formidable reputation and had already won over the most elite socialites of the time. However, it was in Deauville where she was the first to invent a sporty sense of style that reflected a changing society, a style that would forever alter the course of women's history.
Here at this chic resort destination she sold her wide-brimmed hats that were simply decorated with a single feather or ribbon. Yet most importantly, she offered wealthy clients open-air apparel that she displayed along Deauville’s famous boardwalk. The selection notably included the fisherman-inspired striped jersey sweater: yet again, she was able to reinvent a masculine garment and transform a classic work wear item into something comfortable for women who were ever so ready to be liberated from the heavy, corseted silhouette imposed by the “Belle Epoque”. Other outfits followed that embodied casual chic and successfully put everything else out of fashion: striped shirts, sailor pants, and beach pajamas that she accessorized with pearls and camellias loosely stitched to the belt or collar lapel. In Deauville, Gabrielle's boldness paired with the elegance of Adrienne (her young aunt) and her sister Antoinette (both dressed by Chanel) was as surprising as it was seductive. Gabrielle Chanel breathed new life and fresh air into fashion, fully embracing the spirit of the times, which the Avant-gardists were also doing at the same time in other creative fields such as painting, sculpture, literature, poetry, and music.
Françoise Claire Prodhon
Photo © All Rights Reserved
August 6th, 2014Par Françoise-Claire Prodhon
The relationship between Gabrielle Chanel and the Basque coast dates back to 1915. It was Arthur “Boy” Capel who introduced her to Biarritz while on leave from his military duties. The war that raged on relentlessly seemed far off while at this famous seaside resort: many wealthy women had fled Paris to seek refuge there and spent quiet, peaceful days at the seaside. Gabrielle Chanel was captivated by the smart and stylish atmosphere of Biarritz. It was here that she decided to open her first couture house in 1915 in a villa facing the casino.
She experienced instant success: neighboring Spain was neutral during the war, and orders poured in from Spanish royalty and very wealthy clients, as well as from French clients who were won over by the innovative luxury of Chanel. Biarritz had also served as a resort destination for Russian aristocrats since the 19th century, who purchased and built numerous villas there. After the fall of the czar, many of them sought refuge in Biarritz. It was here in 1920 that Gabrielle Chanel met Grand Duke Dimitri Pavlovitch, cousin of the czar, with whom she had an affair until 1922. She spent much time with him at various villas along the Basque coast. In 1920, Gabrielle Chanel became the symbol of elegance, introducing the world to a modern sense of style that she embodied ever so perfectly. It was reflected in her streamlined silhouettes, ankles revealed by shortened skirts and dresses, simple garments with clean lines, and soft materials such as jersey knit, fabrics so comfortable that she made swimsuits from them, in addition to the jacket and skirt suits that she was the first to wear.
While enjoying freedom, an outdoor lifestyle and the modern winds that were blowing around her, Gabrielle Chanel cut her hair short and exposed herself to the sun. Women quickly followed suit, mimicking the look that would foreshadow the profound changes yet to come of a society heading full steam into the 20th century.
Françoise Claire Prodhon
Photo © CHANEL - Collection Bernstein-Grüber
July 31st, 2014Par Jean Lebrun
When it comes to the history of fashion, there are some people we can know inside and out - for example, Jean Patou, who died prematurely, had his archives carefully preserved, classified and communicated: Emmanuelle Polle was able to research these archives in 2013 and summarize the essentials in a single book.
Legend has it that during their lifetime, Patou and Chanel could not stand to be in the same room together. In terms of history, legend is once again correct. Chanel is of a completely different kind than Patou. She left behind many footsteps but very few written sources, as she herself would become lost in the maze of her constantly reinvented memories: we are perhaps the ninety-fifth to publish a book about her, and with each new work that emerges, the picture becomes even fuzzier, and the essence of who she is escapes us even more.
This project, entitled "Notre Chanel" (Our Chanel), was written in attempt to surpass this difficulty by recounting what Gabrielle meant to two men, Bernard and Jean, who investigated her life nearly a quarter century ago. One of these men has since passed. The other has reopened the case, but has endeavored not to produce yet another biography. Rather, this work is like a stained glass window – a lateral stained glass window – in which Bernard and Jean contemplate in the corner reserved for the faces of donors, yet are unable to reach the face that brought them together through a task never completed. It is a window in which Gabrielle is most certainly not depicted as a saint, but rather as a magical fairy-like being: a ray of her glory suddenly falls on Bernard, who was lost to us too early, and he, who was forgotten, finds some light shed on his path.
"Notre Chanel” (Our Chanel), Jean Lebrun, Bleu autour.
January 16th, 2014
Based on a series of intimate conversations between Morand and Coco Chanel, written in the great storyteller's prose, this book artfully sketches the character of the elusive, mysterious and charming creature who inspired Malraux to say; "Chanel , De Gaulle and Picasso are the greatest figures of our times." Hailed on its publication in 1976 as "a great celebration of a book, a finely cut, sparkling gem", The Allure of Chanel attracted the attention of Karl Lagerfeld, who embellished it with seventy-three drawings, sketched for this special illustrated edition.*
*Summary from the inside front cover written by Pushkin Press
Illustration by Karl Lagerfeld p. 130
Deluxe Illustrated Edition published by Pushkin Press
August 1st, 2012Par Justine Picardie
Extract from ‘Coco Chanel: the Legend and the Life’ (published by Harper Collins).
“Misia – who was so famous at the time that she was known throughout Paris by her first name – met Chanel in 1917.
This was an era when Misia was queen of the city, a muse who had reigned over artists since her youth, capricious and compelling, a law unto herself, with a court who paid heed to all her pronouncements. ‘What I admire in Misia is that joie de vivre always concealed behind a mask of ill-humour; that perfect poise, even in moments of despair,’ observed Paul Morand in his diary in April 1917. ‘And then Misia is Misia, someone with no equal and, as Proust says, a monument.’ As such, she had been painted by Renoir, Vuillard, Lautrec and Bonnard; inspired the poetry of Mallarmé, the prose of Proust, the music of Debussy and Ravel and the gossip of Cocteau and Picasso. A gifted pianist herself, Misia had sat on Liszt’s knee and performed Beethoven for him as a child. ‘Ah, if only I could play like that,’ he said, with his customary charm, and predicted a dazzling future for her; thereafter, Misia was taught the piano by Fauré, who regarded her as a prodigy. Her powerful position at the centre of the inner circle of Parisian art was consolidated by virtue of her close friendship with Serge Diaghilev, the director of the most sought-after ballet company in the world at that time, Ballets Russes. Chanel was 11 years younger, and not yet as socially pivotal in Parisian society, but Misia fell for her when they met at a dinner party at the home of Cécile Sorel, a glamorous French actress who was already a client at Rue Cambon.”
Justine Picardie is the author of five books, including her critically acclaimed memoir, If The Spirit Moves You, and her most recent novel Daphne. The former features director of Vogue, and editor of Observer magazine, she currently writes for several other newspapers and magazines, including the Times, Sunday Telegraph and Harper’s Bazaar.
Exhibition: Misia, reine de Paris. June 12th – September 9th at the musée d’Orsay, Paris.
Anonymous, Misia Natanson in a black dress, 1896-1897
Duplicate of a silver print photography
© Vuillard Archives, Paris
June 8th, 2012Par Justine Picardie
Extract from ‘Coco Chanel: the Legend and the Life’ (published by Harper Collins).
"His name was Arthur Capel, but his friends called him Boy, in an Edwardian era when English gentleman were still able to celebrate their continuing freedoms long after had turned from boys to men. Boy's origins were swathed in romance, and he came to Paris amidst murmured speculation that he was connected in some mysterious way to the British aristocracy.
"In Pau I met an Englishman", Gabrielle Chanel said to Morand. "We made each other's acquaintance when we were out horse-trekking one day; we all lived on horseback." They drank wine together; it was young, intoxicating and quite unsual", and so was the Englishman. "The young man was handsome, very tanned and attractive. More than handsome, he was magnificent. I admired his nonchalance, and his green eyes. He rode bold and very powerful horses. I fell in love with him. I had never loved MB. "Yet at first, she and Capel did not speak. "Not a word was exchanged between this Englishman and me.
One day I heard he was leaving Pau. "She asked him to tell her the time he was travelling to Paris; no other conversation was necessary. "The following day, I was at the station. I climbed onto the train.""
Justine Picardie is the author of five books, including her critically acclaimed memoir, If The Spirit Moves You, and her most recent novel Daphne. The former features director of Vogue, and editor of Observer magazine, she currently writes for several other newspapers and magazines, including theTimes, Sunday Telegraph and Harper’s Bazaar.
July 13th, 2011
"Chanel and Place Vendôme are very linked. She lived in the Ritz, now there is a Jewelry shop, it’s very Paris, there are many photos of her on the place Vendôme. The big site of the Ritz is also still the Ritz, a part of the place Vendôme." Karl Lagerfeld
From the 1920s onwards, Mademoiselle Chanel refused to "settle down" and stayed at the Ritz Hotel occasionally before she decided in 1937 to move in and rent a suite on the third floor.
Place Vendôme was one of her sources of inspiration. The octagonal cap of her first perfume, Chanel N°5 recalls its geometry and proportions. Later on, the Première watch equally reminds of this aesthetic.
Today, directly facing her suite at the Ritz is the Chanel Fine Jewelry boutique which opened at number 18 in 1997.
Photo: 1937 - Gabrielle Chanel at the balcony of her suite at the Ritz Hotel, Paris ©Photo Roger Schall / Collection Schall
March 23rd, 2011Par Justine Picardie
People often ask me, ‘when did you start writing your book about Chanel?’ – and the true answer is over a decade ago, when I first met Karl Lagerfeld. I was interviewing him for a magazine profile at the time, but we ended up talking about the ghosts of the past, as well as the fashion of the future; and one of the intangible presences in the room was Coco Chanel herself. Her portrait still hangs above Lagerfeld’s desk in the Design Studio, her apartment remains preserved on the second floor, hidden behind the mirrored walls; and late at night, when rue Cambon is almost silent, you feel that if you were to turn round swiftly enough, you might just catch a glimpse of Mademoiselle Chanel herself.Release dates:
Once I had passed through those looking glass doors, into the extraordinary world on the other side of the mirrors, I knew that I wanted to discover more. Lagerfeld proved to be a wise guide in the maze that surrounded the legend of Coco Chanel, as did her close friend, Claude Delay, and her great-niece, Gabrielle Labrunie. I was also lucky enough to discover several private archives in England and Scotland that contained previously unseen photographs of Chanel, and a number of letters and diaries that gave surprising new insights into her life. In my search for the truth about this most elusive of women, I travelled from the abbey at Aubazine that contained clues to her childhood, to the remote Scottish Highlands where she had fished with the Duke of Westminster and Winston Churchill.
When my book was finished – not that you can ever really come to a final conclusion with Chanel – there was yet another surprise to come. Monsieur Lagerfeld produced a treasure trove: a series of beautiful illustrations illuminating the enigma that is Coco Chanel, which became the starting point for this wonderful new edition of the book…
France, March 24th, 2011
Germany, end of April 2011
UK and USA, September 2011
November 17th, 2010
First published in 1987, this book was impossible to find in stores until now.It is once again available in French published by “Éditions de la Martinière” and in English by “Abrams” in the United States and “Thames & Hudson” in England.In this book, art historian Jean Leymarie recounts the life of Coco Chanel and her work through the world of art. The text is accompanied by photos of Coco Chanel amidst the creations of Cocteau, Modigliani, Matisse, Renoir, Iribe, Doisneau, Marie Laurencin...
Only the most determined could still track down this collector.
Toward the end of the 1910s, thanks to muse and benefactor Misia Sert, wife of painter José-Mari Sert, Gabrielle Chanel was introduced into the most avant-garde group of artists of the time. Jean Leymarie highlights the friendships that forged the life and style of Coco Chanel, from Picasso to Dali. "I always felt a solid sense of friendship toward Picasso. I believe that he felt the same way." (quote from Coco Chanel, p.70)Photo: the book "CHANEL" by Jean Leymarie photographed in Coco Chanel's apartment