The lesser known early history of the fashion legend Coco Chanel will be illuminated in the French film Coco Avant Chanel due out in France this month. Coco will be played by French sweetheart Audrey Tautou.
The fame Chanel deserves for introducing menswear fashions in a world of corsets, proliferating a palette of beige, black and white, and being the first to attach a designer name to a fragrance, has never been shadowed by her humble and controversial past.
Coco was born to a poor family, and experienced loss early on in life when her mother died. It is said that she was prone to give numerous, more tragic accounts of her childhood, claiming her mother died when she was only two, and that her father then abandoned her and her siblings to distant relatives. Officially it is believed that she learned to sew in a convent and that she eventually found a job in a tailoring shop, where she met a wealthy admirer who was to finance the beginnings of her fashion career, which she began as a milliner. Her use of jersey fabric, a cheap and comfortable alternative, for women's clothing revolutionized the style of the times (WWI).
Coco stayed in Paris during WWII, where it was rumored that she was involved in an affair with a Nazi official, and she later was charged with war crimes, which she escaped by a self exile to Switzerland. She made her final comeback in the 1950's which introduced the classic tweed suits that are still the icon image of Chanel.
However shocking the details of her personal life, it seems fitting that a woman so unique and influential, one that literally revolutionized women's fashion, have a personal fabric as intricately woven as her leathers and tweeds.
The fashion house is among the greats still today as director Karl Lagerfeld seeks to resurrect Coco's original, practical yet sophisticated designs in his many collections, with the additions of contemporary touches and details, as can be seen from these Spring 2009 looks.
- Carly Pifer
- Born and raised under the Los Angeles sun and smog. At sixteen spent some time in LA County Juvenile Detention Center, although never really learned her lesson. Moved to Boston for the classic college experience. Spray painted graffiti in the Paris Metro during six month stay in the Marais. Survived an ultra fabulous and frightening internship at Vogue Magazine while living at a nunnery in Hell's Kitchen. Lived a year in Seoul, a city which can only be compared to a Disneyland theme park. Written four hundred sixty-four words of an undisclosed masterpiece novel. Currently pondering her next adventure and also the meaning of her memoirs from an artist's loft in dirty Brooklyn.