Born poor, she had constantly to hide its origins. The existence of this Queen of the stage oscillates between bursts of success, his love of fly high and the thud of his lonely fate. If it were one word summed up the life of that between intuitions and rebellions, has been the “exterminating Angel of a 19th-century style” (Paul Morand), the term would be double. Double, as the clatter of the glory which will surround this Queen of the Allure and the thud of his destiny of solitary Amazon. Double, as the two C, symbols intertwined on the success of his house, founded in 1914, that even today, twenty-seven years after the disappearance of the Grande Mademoiselle, authenticate bags, perfumes, scarves, buttons and other essential accessories of his adamant seal. Initials once engraved into the rough wood of the table from his grandmothers-father, Joseph Chanel, innkeeper at Ponteils. This hamlet Cévennes in the heart of a forest of chestnut trees, birthplace of his paternal family peasant but without land, which it will never deliver the name. And for good reason.
Encrypted throughout his life to forge his legend to “hide its origins” (Edmonde Charles-Roux), Gabrielle Chanel prefers to anchor its story on the languid shores of the Loire Valley, where she was born August 19, 1883, the hospices de Saumur, city famous for its school of cavalry. Child of love, she was the second daughter of Albert Chanel, camelot (“trader”, said Who’s Who), and Ms. Jeanne Devolle, seamstress, three maternity hospitals later, finally married, aged 33, his mother goes out. TCHES. “It tore me everything and I am dead”, confided: Chanel to his girlfriend of the last hour, Claude Delay (Chanel solitaire, Gallimard), with which for ten years she will share the final version of his life. “I knew it in 12 years,” she adds, thus justifying its resistance to the blows of fate. And his strange passion for solitude, that neither fame nor his love of high lineage will be able to erase.
Dual, finally, as Coco this nickname to the conquerors accents which she said it comes from his father. Gone forever to try his luck in America, for all legacy Albert leaves him a name mademoiselle Chanel, the orphan status. This Word can never hear without being “ice fright.
Barely 15 years old, Gabrielle, in the company of Julia, her sister, is entrusted to the nuns of the monastery of Obazine, an orphanage a few kilometres from Brive. White blouse and black skirt – source maybe “his furious poverty [that] liked to devalue to precious stones” (Paul Morand, in Chanel’s Allure, ed. Hermann) and this rigour which became the quintessence of the Chanel style – throughout endless days she learns to rely only on itself to earn the stripes of his freedom.
Do not take the novitiate, at 18 years, Gabrielle is entrusted to ladies canonesses of mills, who taught him the picky craft of sewing. She finds her aunt Adrienne, the latest addition to his prolific grandparents. They have the same age and especially the same ambition: escape. Adept at handling the needle, here they are soon placed as committed in a specialized outfits and baby House. In this Garrison City where young people from good families come to learn the art of war in honing their weapons of conquerors, their pretty silhouettes never fail to be noticed.
Very courted, Gabrielle, who does not share the anonymous plight of the cousettes, is ready to take risks. Even if the border is delicate between his will and the peril to an easy woman. Looking for a future which it refuses is limited to embroidery on fine cotton sheets the number of happy women who crossed the official love evening she tries his luck where others will be forever switch their destiny. Here it is laying on the stage of a CFO ‘ conc’ where she made her first appearances, silent.
Soon, she dares to push the ditty. At the Café La Rotonde, facing these officers of the 10th regiment of chasseurs à cheval from heckle the Gummy aloud as frail as its size, “while engaged in the war please” (Edmonde Charles-Roux). Graceful, with its heavy dark hair like her look, her slender breasts that will mark his style and his skinny legs of boy, it soon becomes the favourite of these gentlemen. Who has seen Coco in the Trocadero? Just started his fetish air, it collects “thunderous laugh. As bis, the cousette who discovers the intoxicating success is called “Coco!” happy or gravel kicked. They are far away dreams of paternal tenderness susurrée at the time of the Sandman!
The discovery of life in a castle
The truth about the first years of Chanel, it’s to Edmonde Charles-Roux to be the. In his biography, the irregular or my Chanel (Grasset) route, the former editor in Chief of Vogue stalking every turn of his life to find the truth in “femme fatale to herself” (François Nourissier) Chanel has desperately hidden. For fear of losing his strength?
Gabrielle, who doesn’t have the talent of Mistinguett, this another Gummy Ravager in dress of black glitter whose reputation goes back to mills, will be saved by Étienne Balsan’s fate and horizontal another dead-end. His first man, her lover maybe, his friend for always is a rich gentleman rider who just make his stripes officer to devote himself to the breeding and racing. He made him discover the life of its castle, Royallieu. For nearly a year, she learns the mysteries of high society. Quickly. But she’s bored and she cries. She’s 18 years old and nowhere of refuge.
Then she escapes in jodhpurs of skin, these panties to FDA that it had copied by a tailor on the corner, to breathe at ease the reassuring atmosphere of the stables. When she is not produced small singular hats – “so dry, so severe – she wears”very depressed”with her first dresses stitched hand to attend the races, this venue where the demi-mondaines parading on the lawn in outfits that flatter the benefits, their only wealth. With its austere schoolgirl style, on the note. And the judge. That will make the “honest” fashion fun. Frills and fuss are already not his kind.
Galloping bareback in the forest of Compiègne, coconut trace breathlessly the paths of its future. Even if the famous Emilienne d ‘ Alençon still reigns on the heart of Etienne Balsan. Regardless of him, Gabrielle does not like. Of the less, not this irresistible passion which, two years later, the will forward Arthur Capel, said ‘Boy’, even in the capital. Where it will install it boulevard Malesherbes, in the apartment of Balsan, his best friend who does not regret the yet.
Boy is a matte complexion English and mysterious past – told the natural son of the banker Pereire – which she will be the shameful companion for nine years. Man of horse – it has a stable of polo – and business – he has made his fortune in coal freight – Capel likes this rebel who proves to be more ‘Fawn’ than ‘abandoned Sparrow. But it is a young English widow no other interest than to be daughter of baron, whom he married. A wrong turn on a road in the noon on the eve of Christmas 1919, while he joined his regular who is expecting a second child by him, and Boy out of life at the wheel of a car too fast. “I lost while losing Capel ‘, said Chanel fifty years later. Everything and more. Because it is Boy who takes seriously his ambitions of working which Balsan thought that they were just an infatuation. It was he who finance the opening of her first millinery shop, Chanel Modes, at 21 of the rue Cambon which will forever become his stronghold. Folded Deauville due to war, it was in 1914 that Coco, with Campbell at his side, will make its first lines of seamstress by dressing the elegant beautiful refuge in Normandy homes.
The missing stuff, it size dresses of sport in jersey lad sweaters, these training knitwear that she adopted long. Freeing the body, leaving the size, Chanel announced this “new silhouette” which earned him his reputation. To comply, women strive to be “skinny as Coco”, which suddenly liberating scissors became the “first woman with short hair. And soon finds himself at the head of an empire forged the strength of his wrists, which were the “fragility of the steel. Three years later, mademoiselle Chanel, which employs more than 300 workers, reimburse finally Boy, forever denying the status of a kept woman.
Everything is in place for a future that looks brilliant but, once again, solitary. Lacks to Coco Chanel, in mourning for her love, only to have its entries in the narrow circle of the people of the world, to contact with which ever it will lose its lucidity.
Which will introduce it is Misia Sert, this beautiful Polish, ‘rare being who cannot appeal to women and a few artists’ and that Satie called “mother kills everything. ‘Parasite of the heart’ (Paul Morand), the muse of Bonnard and Vuillard, the Muse of Diaghilev and Stravinsky will be his “only friend” (and maybe more). Misia, which Coco said: ‘the sorrow of others draws him as some perfumes attract the bee’, felt his genius. And, ‘with its reseller flair”, it opened the doors of worldliness.
From 1920 to 1939, Chanel – it launched Nº 5, her first perfume – reigns in Paris. Six months after the death of Boy, on his return from a long trip to Italy with Misia and her band, she moved to the Ritz – of years later, she will find her habits of injured woman. And it resumes its ‘life of dictator’: success and solitude are its daily lot. Coco cries more. She is lost in the work. And it invents. Sports costume, fake jewelry that she made to draw by François Hugo, the shoulder bag because she tires to lose hers, and sandals in sole of Cork that she is made for walking on the burning sand of the beach of the Lido, Venice. Suddenly his fetish scissors, she always wears around his neck by a white bolduc, she out of style fashion designers, “kills the eccentricity” and gives women the look of their freedom.
Paris vibrates nostalgic sound of the Gypsy violins accompanying the sleepless nights of émigré Russians. Chanel rayon and is totally alone. She shares her life with a man, the Grand Duke Dimitri, that it has installed in his villa in Garches, where it hosts already Stravinsky and his family. ORS, embroidery and zibelines from Siberia come in its workshops, while the cousin of the murdered tsar reveals refinements of Palace and the misery of the fallen Kings. «The princes of the blood have always made me immensely pity will entrust to Paul Morand.» Their trade when they exercise it, is the saddest and when they do do it, it’s worse.”
Because it is an another Lord, the Duke of Westminster, met in Monte Carlo, who will enter his life while his own empire extends. And that reputation is more to do. ‘ Bend’ gold ‘, the name of the famous Stallion of his father, has a huge fortune, but it is “simplicity itself. ‘Simple as a tramp’, say Chanel, for whom her lover becomes the absolute symbol of elegance. The evidence? It is never “nothing new”. The Landes of Scotland where the Duke hunting grouse at the bridge of his yachts, of Ireland in the Carpathian Mountains passing through Heaton Hall, its castle, six years that has too many houses to all know will be at his side. But it is part of the destiny of the eternal fiancee, Gabrielle Chanel became not English. Benny is charming, yet she’s bored, “from this sordid boredom of idleness and the rich. It requires that he was married. Curtain. Will remain it this taste of the worn tweed jackets that she cribbed at ‘the richest man in England “. And some earth-shattering theories on money.
“Never marry a man who has a purse”, advising, peremptory, that so well knew what she was talking about, forever holding the men on their way to spend. And that, without doubt, refused to become Duchess, as if she wanted to stay “of his own fact, proudly, that it did not marry” (Nourissier).
Gabrielle Chanel, who struck very early in his life which remained family of blood towards the heart, prefers the doubts of the artists, his only true friends, to the princely pomp: Cocteau, Picasso, Darius Milhaud, Serge Lifar, Diaghilev – which she will pay the burial in Venice, in 1929, the tell – Stravinsky, which she financed without know the rite of springwill be its ramparts against the chimeras of worldliness. “For the first time, coconut really like,” says Misia Sert to Colette, revealing the love of his girlfriend to Pierre Reverdy. Fantasy or Word of respondent? The poet was the companion of the shadow, dark and difficult lover that gives the taste of books that cultivates his solitude.
Less pink years ahead for Chanel: a strike by its workers, the first paid leave and the arrival of Elsa Schiaparelli. The seamstress of origin Italian, friend of the surrealists, opened his house in 1934. Chanel wobbles but is struggling to reclaim its Crown. News will him to not let time. Or perhaps she felt the urgency of a retreat. In 1939, shortly after the declaration of war, she dismissed all its staff and close the rue Cambon. Go back to the Ritz, where the Queen retreats. Not quite alone. It has a long association with Hans Günther von d, a German officer who loves pretty women. And the easy life. It will not facilitate that of Chanel. The liberation, she was arrested. And then released a few hours later. On intervention, the last gesture of the Duke of Westminster faithful? Mystery. Omit is an art which Chanel is still perfectly handling.
Exiled in Switzerland, angry but proud, is a palace of Saint-Moritz she sees coming this ‘new-look’ that gives women the poses minaudantes, memories of before before the war, against whom she had both rebelled. Strangled sizes, too long skirts, christian dior, master of the day, again hinders women, going counter to the beliefs of the Grande Mademoiselle. It will a few years yet to recover from this blow of fate on his own land.
In 1953, at age 70, Chanel prepares his return and rejoined the rue Cambon. After a first test – a missed collection earning bursts of the press which has long brought it to the clouds – defended by the newspaper it (Hélène Lazareff in mind) and recognized by the American buyers, his style found favor with women. His clothes, simple but righteous, are the favorite uniform of the modern women, including Jackie Kennedyin November 1963, in his blood-stained pink cutter, will be the shattered symbol. Copied, plagiarized, the style Chanel is more than a fashion, a phenomenon. But 1968 awaits him at the turn of the revolution. Chanel, who “are good when they go down” but not when they come from the street, defends itself and tries to stay out of reach, sure of its prerogatives: she only gives the watchwords.
More skinny and biting than ever, more unfair also isolated despot between its coromandel screens and its cold bursts of crystal chandeliers, she takes refuge in the rites of fittings and its requirements, surrounded by her courtiers and mannequins. Without love. “Furious and straight as a captain on the deck of a vessel that dark,” wrote Françoise Giroud in L’Express. Looking in the mirrors of the staircase of his couture House, where she is hiding days parade, to capture the reflections of his glory who never has managed to clear the wounds of his intimate despair. “True successes are fatal,” said one who returned to live in his apartment in the Ritz. And who will work until the last evening of his life, on January 10, 1971. A Sunday, this day devoted to rest and family. Everything she hates.