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Ministry of Education Youth and Sports in Moldova Free International University of Moldova International Relationships Faculty

Coco Chanel. The Legend and the Life
Accomplished: Cristina Croitor Course: 2nd year Verified: Starodub Diana

Chisinau 2011

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Introduction..3 Early Life.3-4 Personal life and entry to fashion4-6 World War II....6-8 Later years and death8-9 Depictions.9-10 Bibliography..11 Vocabulary12-13

A woman can be over-dressed, never over-elegant.[6]

Gabrielle Bonheur "Coco" Chanel (19 August 1883 10 January 1971) [1] was a pioneering French fashion designer whose modernist thought, menswear-inspired fashions, and pursuit of expensive simplicity made her an important figure in 20th-century fashion. She was the founder of one of the most famous fashion brands, Chanel. Her extraordinary influence on fashion was such that she was the only person in the couturier field to be named on Time 100: The Most Important People of the Century. Clothes, for Coco Channel, were for freedom and forgetting. Women should be able to walk, to drive, to ride their bicycles and to forget what they are wearing. She replaced whalebone corsets and birds nest hats with loose trousers, Breton tops and sailor blouses, clothes that women can live in, breath in, feel comfortable in and look young in. The baroque evening gown was exchanged for that little black dress, worn with a single string of pearls. Extravagant things didnt suit me, Chanel said, meaning that extravagant things didnt suit any woman. Black, however, wipes out everything else around. It is the absence of colors, Chanel explained in one of her dazzling artistic statements, which has absolute beauty.[2]
As long as you know men are like children, you know everything![6]

Early Life Chanel was born in Saumur, France. She was the second daughter of Albert Chanel and Jeanne Devolle, a market stallholder and laundrywoman. Her birth was declared by employees of the hospital in which she was born. They, being illiterate, could not provide or confirm the correct spelling of the surname and it was recorded by the mayor Franois Poitou as "Chasnel". [3] This misspelling made the tracing of her roots almost impossible for biographers when Chanel later rose to prominence. Her parents married in 1883. She had five siblings: two sisters, Julie (18821913) and Antoinette (born 1887) and three brothers, Alphonse (born 1885), Lucien (born 1889) and Augustin (born and died 1891). In 1895, when she was 12 years old, Chanel's mother died of tuberculosis and her father left the family. Because of this, the young Chanel spent six years in the orphanage of the Roman Catholic monastery of Aubazine, where she learned the trade of a seamstress. School vacations were spent with relatives

in the provincial capital, where female relatives taught her to sew with more flourish than the nuns at the monastery were able to demonstrate. When Coco turned eighteen, she was obliged to leave the orphanage, and affiliated with the circus of Moulins as a cabaret singer. During this time, Chanel performed in bars in Vichy and Moulins where she was called "Coco." Some say that the name comes from one of the songs she used to sing, and Chanel herself said that it was a "shortened version of cocotte, the French word for 'kept woman'," according to an article in The Atlantic. According to Chandler Burr's The Emperor of Scent, Luca Turin was told that Chanel was "called Coco because she threw the most fabulous cocaine parties in Paris".[4]
Luxury is the opposite of vulgarity.[6]

Personal life and entry into fashion While she failed to get steady work as a singer, it was at Moulins that she met rich, young French textile heir tienne Balsan, to whom she soon became an acknowledged mistress, keeping her day job in a tailoring shop. Balsan lavished on her the beauties of "the rich life": diamonds, dresses, and pearls. While living with Balsan, Chanel began designing hats as a hobby, which soon became a deeper interest of hers. "After opening her eyes," as she would say, Coco left Balsan and took over his apartment in Paris. Biographer Justine Picardie, in her 2010 study Coco Chanel: The Legend and the Life (Harper Collins), suggests that the fashion designer's nephew Andr Palassesupposedly the only child of her sister Juliemay actually have been Chanel's child by Balsan. In 1909 Chanel met and began an affair with one of Balsan's friends, Captain Arthur Edward 'Boy' Capel. Capel financed Chanel's first shops and his own clothing style, notably his jersey blazers, and inspired her creation of the Chanel look. The couple spent time together at fashionable resorts such as Deauville, but he was never faithful to Chanel. The affair lasted nine years, but even after Capel married an aristocratic English beauty in 1918, he did not completely break off with Chanel. His death in a car accident, in late 1919, was the single most devastating event in Chanel's life. A roadside memorial at the site of the accident was placed there by Chanel, who visited it in later years to place flowers there. Chanel became a licensed modiste (hat maker) in 1910 and opened a boutique at 21 rue Cambon, Paris named Chanel Modes. Chanel's modiste career bloomed once theatre actress Gabrielle Dorziat modeled her hats in the F Noziere's play Bel Ami in 1912. In 1913, she established a boutique in

Deauville, where she introduced luxe casual clothes that were suitable for leisure and sport. Chanel launched her career as fashion designer when she opened her next boutique, titled Chanel-Biarritz, in 1915, catering to the wealthy Spanish clientele who holidayed in Biarritz and were less affected by the war.] Fashionable like Deauville, Chanel created loose casual clothes made out of jersey, a material typically used for men's underwear. By 1919, Chanel was registered as a couturiere and established her maison de couture at 31 rue Cambon. Later in life, she concocted an elaborate false history for her humble beginnings. Of the various stories told about Coco Chanel born Gabrielle, misidentified as Chasnel, the illegitimate daughter of an itinerant market trader, in a provincial French poorhouse in 1883 a great number were invented by herself. These legends were to be the undoing of the earliest of her biographies (ghosted memoirs commissioned by Mademoiselle Chanel, but never completed or published, always smothered by her at birth when she realized that the truth was less compelling, at least to her, than the selfinvented creation myth). Chanel would steadfastly claim that when her mother died, her father sailed for America to get rich and she was sent to live with two cold-hearted spinster aunts. She even claimed to have been born in 1893 as opposed to 1883, and that her mother had died when Coco was six instead of twelve. In 1920, she was introduced by ballet impresario Sergei Diaghilev to Igor Stravinsky, composer of The Rite of Spring, to whom she extended an offer for him and his family to reside with her. In 1924, Chanel made an agreement with the Wertheimer brothers, Pierre and Paul, directors of the eminent perfume house Bourgeois since 1917, creating a corporate entity, "Parfums Chanel." The Wertheimers agreed to provide full financing for production, marketing and distribution of Chanel No. 5. For ten percent of the stock, Chanel licensed her name to "Parfums Chanel" and removed herself from involvement in all business operations. Displeased with the arrangement, Chanel worked for more than twenty years to gain full control of "Parfums Chanel." She proclaimed that Pierre Wertheimer was the bandit who screwed me. Coco dated some of the most influential men of her time, but she never married. The reason may be found in her answer, when asked why she did not marry the Duke of Westminster: "There have been several Duchesses of Westminster. There is only one Chanel."

In 1925, Vera Bate Lombardi, ne Sarah Gertrude Arkwright, reputedly the illegitimate daughter of the Marquess of Cambridge, became Chanel's muse, and also her liaison to a number of European royal families. Chanel established the English look based upon Lombardi's personal style. Lombardi also had the highest possible social connections. She introduced Chanel to her uncle, the Duke of Westminster, her cousin, the Duke of Windsor, and many other aristocratic families. In 1927 she built Villa La Pausa in Roquebrune on the French Riviera hiring the architect Robert Streitz. The villa has a staircase and a patio inspired by her orphanage, Aubazine. La Pausa has been partially replicated at the Dallas Museum of Art to welcome the Reves collection and part of Chanel's original furniture for the house. It was in 1931 while in Monte Carlo that Chanel made the acquaintance of Samuel Goldwyn. The introduction was made through a mutual friend, the Grand Duke Dmitri Pavlovich, cousin to the last czar of Russia, Nicolas II. Goldwyn offered Chanel a tantalizing proposition. For the sum of a million dollars (approximately seventy-five million today), he would bring her to Hollywood twice a year to design costumes for MGM stars. Chanel accepted the offer. En route to California from New York traveling in a white train car, which had been luxuriously outfitted specifically for her use, she was interviewed by Colliers magazine in 1932. Chanel said she had agreed to the arrangement to "see what the pictures have to offer me and what I have to offer the pictures." This enterprise with the film industry left Chanel with a dislike for the business of movie making and distaste for the Hollywood culture itself, which she denounced as infantile. Ultimately, her design aesthetic did not translate well to film, failing to satisfy the standard of Hollywood glamour of the era. On screen her creations did not transmit enough dazzle and sexy allure. Her designs for film stars were not acclaimed and generated little comment.
A woman is closest to being naked when she is well dressed.[6]

World War II In 1939, at the beginning of World War II, Chanel closed her shops. She claimed that it was not a time for fashion. Three thousand female employees lost their jobs. The advent of war had given Chanel the opportunity to retaliate against those workers, who lobbying for fair wages and work hours, had closed down her business operation during the general labor strike in France in 1936. In closing her couture house, Chanel made a definitive statement of her political views. Her visceral loathing of Jews inculcated by

her convent years, and sharpened by her aristocratic associations over time, had solidified her right-wing beliefs. She shared with most of her circle the conviction that Jews and liberal politicians were a Bolshevik threat to Europe. During the German occupation Chanel resided at the Hotel Ritz, which was also noteworthy for being the preferred place of residence for upper echelon German military staff. She also maintained an apartment above her couture house at 31 rue Cambon. Her romantic liaison with Hans Gnther von Dincklage, a German officer who had been an operative in military intelligence since 1920, facilitated her arrangement to reside at the Ritz. Archival documents verify that Chanel herself was a Nazi spy, committing herself to the German cause as early as 1941, when she became a paid agent of General Walter Schellenberg, chief of SS intelligence. Her clandestine identity was Abwehr Agent 7124, code name Westminster. World War II, specifically the Nazi seizure of all Jewish-owned property and business enterprises, provided Chanel with the opportunity to gain the full monetary fortune generated by "Parfums Chanel" and its most profitable product, Chanel No. 5. The directors of "Parfums Chanel," the Wertheimers, were Jewish, and Chanel used her position as an Aryan to petition German officials to legalize her claim to sole ownership. On 5 May 1941, she wrote to the government administrator charged with ruling on the disposition of Jewish financial assets. Her grounds for proprietary ownership were based on the claim that Parfums Chanel is still the property of Jewsand had been legally abandoned by the owners. I have, she wrote, an indisputable right of prioritythe profits that I have received from my creations since the foundation of this businessare disproportionate[and] you can help to repair in part the prejudices I have suffered in the course of these seventeen years. Chanel was not aware that the Wertheimers, anticipating the forthcoming Nazi mandates against Jews had, in May 1940, legally turned control of Parfums Chanel over to a Christian, French businessman and industrialist, Felix Amiot. Ultimately, the Wertheimers and Chanel came to a mutual accommodation, re-negotiating the original 1924 contract. On May 17, 1947, Chanel received wartime profits of nine million dollars from the sale of Chanel No. 5, an amount equivalent to some nine million dollars in twenty-first century valuation. Further, her future share would be two percent of all Chanel No. 5 sales worldwide. The financial benefit to her would be enormous. Her earnings would be in the vicinity of twenty-five million dollars a year, making her at the time one of the richest women in the world. Chanels friend and biographer Marcel Haedrich provided a

telling estimation of her wartime interaction with the Nazi regime: If one took seriously the few disclosures that Mademoiselle Chanel allowed herself to make about those black years of the occupation, ones teeth would be set on edge. In 1943, after four years of professional separation, Chanel contacted Lombardi, who was living in Rome. She invited Lombardi to come to Paris and renew their work together. This was actually a cover for "Operation Modellhut," an attempt by Nazi spymaster Walter Schellenberg to make secret contact with Lombardi's relative Winston Churchill. When Lombardi refused, she was arrested as a British spy by the Gestapo. Chanel was later charged as a collaborator, but avoided trial due to intervention by the British Royal family. Chanel was a very close friend of Walter Schellenberg to the extent that when he died of cancer penniless in Turin, Chanel paid for his funeral. Some references suggest that Coco Chanel had close contact with another Nazi, Walter Kutschmann, who was responsible for the murder of thousands of Poland's Jews early in World War II. He was transferred to France in 1943 where he became Chanel's Paris SS contact. Kutschmann made frequent trips to Spain with Chanel with large sums of money passing between them.
A girl should be two things: classy and fabulous.[6]

Later years and death In 1945, she moved to Switzerland, eventually returning to Paris in 1954, the same year she returned to the fashion world. The re-establishment of her couture house in 1954 was fully financed by Chanels old nemesis in the perfume battle, Pierre Wertheimer. This new contractual agreement would also allow Wertheimer to maintain ownership of Parfums Chanel. In return, Wertheimer agreed to an unusual arrangement proposed by Chanel herself, attempting to revive her youthful years as the kept woman of wealthy men. Wertheimer would pay for all of Chanels expenses from the large to the trivial for as long as she lived. Her new collection was not received well by Parisians whose memory of Chanel's treasonous collaboration with the Nazis still resonated in the public mind. However, her return to couture was applauded by the British and Americans, who became her faithful customers.

In early 1971 Chanel, then eighty-seven years old, was tired and ailing but continued to adhere to her usual schedule, overseeing the preparation of the spring collection. She died on Sunday 10 January, at the Hotel Ritz where she had resided for more than thirty years. She had gone for a long drive that afternoon and, not feeling well, had retired early to bed.
A woman has the age she deserves.[6]

Depictions Film Depictions The first film about Chanel was Chanel Solitaire (1981), directed by George Kaczender and starring Marie-France Pisier, Timothy Dalton, and Rutger Hauer. The American television movie Coco Chanel debuted on 13 September 2008 on Lifetime Television, starring Shirley MacLaine as a 70-year-old Chanel. Directed by Christian Duguay, the film also starred Barbora Bobulova as the young Chanel, Olivier Sitruk as Boy Capel, and Malcolm McDowell. The movie substantially rewrote Chanel's personal history, such as its portrayal of her status as a professional mistress as instead a series of "love stories," and glossing over both her Nazi collaboration and her use of British Royal connections to avoid post-war trial as a collaborator. A film starring Audrey Tautou as the young Coco, titled Coco avant Chanel (Coco Before Chanel), was released on 22 April 2009. Audrey Tautou is the new spokeswoman of Chanel S.A. The film Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky, directed by Jan Kounen and starring Anna Mouglalis and Mads Mikkelsen, concerns the purported affair between Chanel and Igor Stravinsky. The film is based on the 2002 novel Coco & Igor by Chris Greenhalgh, and was chosen to close the Cannes Film Festival of 2009. Two more projects are said to be in the works, including one directed by Daniele Thompson. Literary Depictions Coco & Igor is a novel, written by Chris Greenhalgh, which depicts the affair between Chanel and Igor Stravinsky and the creative achievements that this affair inspired. The novel was first published in 2003.In 2008 a children's book entitled Different like Coco was published. It depicted the humble childhood of Coco Chanel and chronicled how she made drastic changes to the fashion industry.The Gospel According to Coco Chanel: Life Lessons from the World's Most Elegant Woman is a novel written by Karen

Karbo. Published in 2009, it chronicles the humble beginnings and legendary achievements of Coco Chanel while providing insight and advice on everything from embracing the moment to living life on your own terms. Stage Depictions The Broadway musical Coco, music by Andre Previn, book and lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner, opened 18 December 1969 and closed 3 October 1970. It is set in 19531954 at the time that Chanel was reestablishing her couture house. Chanel was played by Katharine Hepburn for the first eight months, and by Danielle Darrieux for the rest of its run.


Bibliography: 1. Madamoiselle Chanel: The Perennially Fashionable. Chanel. Retrieved 13 October 2006. 2. Coco Chanel: the Legend and the Life, by Justine Picardie; 3. Horton, Ros; Simmons, Sally (2007). Women Who Changed the World. Quercus. p. 103. ISBN 9781847240262. Retrieved 8 March 2011. 4. Burr, Chandler (2002). The Emperor of Scent: A true story of perfume and obsession. Random House Inc.. p. 43. ISBN 0375759816. 5. Web site: 6. Web site:



Acquaintance - slight knowledge of or friendship with someone:I renewed my acquaintance with Herbert Adhere - believe in and follow the practices of:I do not adhere to any organized religion Asset - a useful or valuable thing or person:quick reflexes were his chief assetsthe school is an asset to the community Blazer - a plain jacket not forming part of a suit but considered appropriate for formal wear. Concoct - create or devise (a story or plan):his cronies concocted a simple plan Couturier - a fashion designer who manufactures and sells clothes that have been tailored to a clients specific requirements and measurements:clothes of luxurious fabrics, cut by top couturiers to fit them to perfection Dazzling - extremely bright, especially so as to blind the eyes temporarily:the sunlight was dazzling Depiction - the action of depicting something, especially in a work of art:the paintings horrific depiction of war Echelon - Militarya formation of troops, ships, aircraft, or vehicles in parallel rows with the end of each row projecting further than the one in front:the regiment lined up shoulder to shoulder in three tight echelons Forthcoming - about to happen or appear:the forthcoming cricket season Heir - a person who inherits and continues the work of a predecessor:they saw themselves as heirs of the Cubists Illiterate - unable to read or write:his parents were illiterate Jersey - a knitted garment with long sleeves, worn over the upper body. Jews - a member of the people and cultural community whose traditional religion is Judaism and who trace their origins to the ancient Hebrew people of Israel. Liaison - communication or cooperation which facilitates a close working relationship between people or organizations:the head porter works in close liaison with the reception office Loathing - a feeling of intense dislike or disgust; hatred:the thought filled him with loathing


Lobby - seek to influence (a legislator) on an issue:they insist on their right to lobby Congress Loose - not strict or exact:a loose interpretation Nemesis - a long-standing rival; an arch-enemy:will Harry Potter finally defeat his nemesis, Voldemort? Pursuit - he action of pursuing someone or something:the cat crouched in the grass in pursuit of a bird Retaliate - make an attack in return for a similar attack:the blow stung and she retaliated immediately Seamstress - a woman who sews, especially one who earns her living by sewing. Sibling - each of two or more children or offspring having one or both parents in common; a brother or sister. Sole - a shipping forecast area in the NE Atlantic, covering the western approaches to the English Channel. Steadfastly - resolutely or dutifully firm and unwavering:steadfast loyalty Steady - firmly fixed , supported, or balanced; not shaking or moving:the lighter the camera, the harder it is to hold steady Tantalizing - torment or tease (someone) with the sight or promise of something that is unobtainable:such ambitious questions have long tantalized the worlds best thinkers Throw - put in place or erect quickly:the stewards had thrown a cordon across the fairway Tracing - a faint or delicate mark or pattern:tracings of apple blossoms against the deep greens of pines Treasonous - the action of betraying someone or something:doubt is the ultimate treason against faith Visceral - relating to deep inward feelings rather than to the intellect:the voters' visceral fear of change