One icon that instantly comes to my mind is “Coco Chanel” and it is not because of the laurels. It is because of the life she led. So when I received a detailed biography of Chanel’s life, I jumped at it and finished it in a matter of two days. Prior to this I had seen the movie based on her life, “Coco Chanel” starring Shirley MacLaine (who by the way made a perfect Chanel in her later years) and wanted to know about the designer who ruled the fashion scene for years.
Lisa Chaney’s book, “Chanel – An Intimate Life” is the most comprehensive biography there is on Chanel’s life and I say this after the research I have done on works written on her. Chanel not only chronicles Coco’s life before she turned Coco, but also proves to be an entertaining read.
The sadness and deprivation of her early years are heartbreaking – when the family did not have enough to eat and survive. Lisa then moves on from here to her emergence into fashionable society and the love affairs that defined her, to the man she loved the most and lost (Arthur ‘Boy’ Capel), to the point when she became a brand thereby changing the face of fashion to the war years as well as the loneliness of her later years to the re-emergence of Chanel in fashion.
Chaney clearly has the extraordinary ability to enter into and make her readers also understand the lives of people who were closely connected to Chanel. The writing did get pedantic in parts; however I ignored it because the rest of it was beautifully written. I liked how the author described the times Chanel lived in and how difficult it was then for any “new fashion sense” to make its presence felt. The analysis of the artistic scene then (Dali, Picasso, Cocteau) had a great impact on Chanel’s work and Lisa has given us a brilliant take there in most chapters.
Chaney’s book is an honest attempt to detail one of the most talked about lives in Fashion. It is a moving portrayal of a strong woman who did not let go of what she thought and believed in. Chanel makes for a great read.