In the past two years alone, she’s been the subject of a Lifetime television special starring Shirley MacLaine and of two motion pictures featuring Audrey Tautou and Anna Mouglalis. Now, Coco Chanel is in the spotlight yet again, this time as the topic of a new biography, “Coco Chanel: The Legend and the Life,” out today from Harper Collins.
If fashion lovers think they’ve already learned all there is to know about the icon, the book’s author, London-based fashion journalist Justine Picardie, maintains she’s covered new ground. “People could say, ‘How on earth could someone British tell the story of one of the greatest French couturiers?’ But I think I was able to offer my own contribution,” says Picardie, who served as features director at British Vogue until 2002 and now writes a style column for The Telegraph. “Nobody had ever looked at [Chanel] within the context of her relations with the British and the Americans, and the more I looked [in my research] there were a lot of British connections that had never been examined.”
Chief among them: Chanel’s foray into London society during the Forties and Fifties, a period when she palled around with Winston Churchill and enjoyed a love affair with the Duke of Westminster. “Those details are really, really crucial to the story of Chanel,” says the author. Certainly Picardie makes that point clear in the book, dedicating an entire chapter to the designer’s affair with the dashing duke, at that time the richest man in Britain (whose heir, Gerald Grosvenor, continues to be among the country’s richest).
Of course, unearthing such intimate details would be difficult for any biographical subject, but Picardie’s task was particularly tricky with Chanel.
“She covered her tracks endlessly,” says the writer, who began her research for the project more than a decade ago. “I mean, this is a woman who changed the date of her birth.”
While Picardie remains tight-lipped about many of the sources she consulted for the project, she says she relied a great deal on British Secret Service files and used her connections in the fashion industry to gain access to the Chanel archives. “I started out as an investigative journalist for the Sunday Times,” she says. “So it was just a matter of putting one foot in front of the other and piecing together the clues.”
One set of clues to which Picardie paid special attention were those surrounding the designer’s alleged support of the Nazi party, a rumor born out of the designer’s love affair with a German official. “I don’t believe Chanel was a Nazi,” declares the author, noting Chanel’s relationship with the officer is still a fact. “I found the truth is far, far more complicated than that [and] I hope I’ve established a pretty clear narrative about what happened.”
Not that Picardie, who has written three previous books, including “Daphne,” a historical fiction account of “Rebecca” author Daphne du Maurier, believes she’s even come close to offering the final word on the designer.
“You could make a dozen movies about Chanel and still not have covered her entire story,” she says.
Breaking News: @louisvuitton's men's artistic director @mrkimjones is leaving the French fashion house after nearly 7 years. Jones joined Louis Vuitton in 2011, following a three year tenure as creative director of British luxury goods brand Alfred Dunhill. Jones is to exit Louis Vuitton after showing his fall 2018 collection for the brand in Paris on Thursday. Read the full exclusive story on WWD.com. Link in bio. #wwdnews #wwdfashion
For men’s fall 2018, @giuseppezanotti drew on elements from streetwear, sport, biker, combat and rock ‘n’ roll. Pictured here are a pair of shoes from the collection, featuring zippers, rhinestones, and silver hardware. Head to WWD.com to see a roundup of the accessories from Milan’s men’s fall 2018 shows. #wwdfashion (📷: Andrea Delb)
To celebrate the 25th anniversary of @ralphlauren’s snowboarding collection, the brand is mining its archives. The iconic brand is reintroducing vintage styles and dropping new designs for a color capsule that will be available in Ralph Lauren stores and @openingceremony on January 25. The capsule will consist of 10 pieces, including the Snow Beach Pullover, pictured here, which is a collector’s item that rapper Raekwon wore in Wu-Tang Clan’s “Can It Be All So Simple” video. #wwdfashion (📷: Tom Gould)
For @rochasofficial’s pre-fall 2018 collection, creative director Alessandro Dell’Acqua channeled the sophisticated and intriguing Catherine Denevue in the film “Belle de Jour.” Polished collarless coats, midi skirts, suits and ’60s graphic motifs were all featured in the collection, adding a sense of discreet luxury. See the rest of the photos on WWD.com #wwdfashion
“We tried to produce clothing of that couture quality, but the most daunting part was that we only had a matter of days [to do it],” said costume designer Lou Eyrich, who recreated Gianni Versace’s iconic looks for @americancrimestoryfx. Eyrich searched online retailers and vintage shops for original pieces from the design house and for @penelopecruzoficial, who plays Donatella Versace. Head to WWD.com to read how she created the Versace world. #wwdfashion
Only three months after her stellar debut catwalk season, @kaiagerber has inked her first big design collaboration –– with @karllagerfeld. The collection blends Lagerfeld’s Parisian chic aesthetic and the model’s signature West Coast casual style via RTW, accessories, footwear and more. The #KarlLagerfeldxKaia collection will launch in September with a series of events. Get all the details on WWD.com. #wwdnews #wwdfashion
Harrods plans to remove the famous statue of Princess Diana and Dodi Al Fayed from the bottom of the Egyptian escalators and hand it back to Mohamed Al-Fayed. “We are very proud to have played our role in celebrating the lives of Diana, Princess of Wales and Dodi Al Fayed at Harrods and to have welcomed people from around the world to visit the memorial for the past 20 years,” said Michael Ward, Harrods managing director. “With the announcement of the new official memorial statue to Diana, Princess of Wales at Kensington Palace, we feel that the time is right to return this memorial to Mr. Al Fayed and for the public to be invited to pay their respects at the palace.” More on the news, with reporting by @loreleimarfil, at WWD.com. #wwdnews