Coco Chanel: her name is synonymous with luxury and elegance. But little Gabrielle Chanel was raised in an orphanage and schooled in a convent--having lost her mother and been virtually abandoned by her father. She picked up the nickname Coco when she was a young cabaret singer--"Ko Ko Rik Ko" ("Cock-a-doodle-do") being the only song she could sing. Those early years of deprivation fueled her lifelong pursuits of strong, doting men and, more famously, high fashion. After she spent years making her own clothes, hats were the first Chanel designs to earn her some recognition and a little bit of money. Bankrolled by a wealthy boyfriend--her first of many--and worn by famous opera singers, the hats--which liberated women from the complicated and extravagantly festooned headgear of the early 1900s--were the first of Chanel's many successful fashion innovations. She borrowed heavily from men's closets, belting their jackets and sweaters and pairing them with skirts to make comfortable suits for working women. She pioneered pants as eveningwear for women and invented clothing that could be worn during the day and into the night. A crisp white collar, perhaps a reference to her convent days, was a common element in her designs. She decorated her unstructured Jersey knits with pearl necklaces and faux jewels and furs so that, despite their comfort, her clothes were always luxurious. As her design empire and fame grew, so did Coco Chanel's social circle. Igor Stravinsky, the duke of Westminster, Salvador Dali, and Jean Cocteau numbered among her most intimate friends, while Princess Grace and countless Hollywood stars and European royalty were devoted to her clothes.
Chanel: Her Style and Her Life combines large black-and-white photos of the designer, her clothes and jewelry, and her lavishly decorated homes with the story of her life. The result is a book that proves how closely Chanel's career and her personal life were intertwined--how her life played out in her style and how her style, ultimately, was the sum of Coco Chanel's life.
From Publishers Weekly
When she realized that the great love of her life, shipping and coal magnate Arthur "Boy" Capel, wouldn't marry a courtesan, Gabrielle "Coco" Chanel settled for his backing in business and opened her first high-fashion shop. According to Wallach's pictorial biography, such pragmatism characterized Chanel throughout her life, as each of her many famous lovers?Igor Stravinsky, Grand Duke Dimitri Pavlovich and the Duke of Westminster among them?helped her with money, influence or, at the very least, access to a smashing personal wardrobe. Profuse, if sometimes redundant, illustrations chronicle the canny Frenchwoman's progress from fashion iconoclast to couture icon. Wallach earnestly details the designer's innovations: Chanel popularized the jersey and cardigan and pants for women; legitimized costume jewelry; invented the "little black dress"; developed the ubiquitous, eponymous suit, as well as her trademark fragrance, Chanel No. 5. But as biography, the book offers little more than a list of Chanel's accomplishments and acquaintances. Wallach's (Desert Queen) text is variously silly, sentimental and strangely unidiomatic ("her modest means could never match their well-heeled bank accounts"). Some of the more intriguing details, involving the designer's failure in Hollywood and her romantic and financial connections with the Nazis, suggest a complex, calculating, passionate woman. But the book's most telling moments ultimately don't tell enough about the woman who more or less invented the modern fashion industry. 150 photos and illustrations.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.