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Mademoiselle Coco Chanel

Wednesday, 10 February 2016
What an emblematic word, known all around the world to talk about only one woman, Gabrielle Chanel. There's only one girl, one legend, one lady, one Coco Chanel. At the origin of a real fashion revolution, this hard-headed woman, with sure and strong tastes, left her permanent mark on the fashion world. Her creations are like painted master pieces, with emblematic outfits, legendary accessories, paired with the way she wanted to put the woman on another level in the society. All those things put Mademoiselle Chanel at the same level that Watteau occupies on the world of Art History: she has to be always remembered. Roland Barthes said of Coco Chanel's work: "there is an eternal beauty of the woman whom the image would be translated by Art History". He has understood it all. Her intimal relationship with art, her love for artists, but as well the innovation, like grand masters of Art History did. To put int in a nutshell, she revolutionized fashion. Meet Mademoiselle. 

    If we want to talk about fashion, at some point, we'll have to talk about Coco Chanel. Of course we can mention other designers, like Jeanne Lanvin and Christian Dior, but why does this mysterious lady became such a legend? Actually it all started with her temper. Without her strong personality, Coco Chanel may have never became the one she has been. Staying always busy and lively, aware of what was going on in her century, and knowing how to live with her time, being thanks to her acts, she spent her lifetime building her work. Real fighter, the lady knew how to take her chances, but above all she has imposed her tastes in a strong way, never afraid to be at the origin of a shock in the fashion world at the start of 20th century. Gabrielle Chanel also built her work thanks to an open mind, especially with eh art world, but her best asset was for sure her character. She never gave up, always believed on her own tastes, and acting that way she has been able to become someone in a world mostly leaded by men. The first half of the twentieth century was the time of women's reborn. The birth of their emancipation which had to appear in their style, leaving behind them al the old traditions that made them look like dolls. 

    Living in a magic world, she has the luck and the privilege to access to the art world, getting to know a to of important artists of the cubist period, as Georges Braques and Pablo Picasso. Her relationship with this filed had a massive influence on her work. In fact, she introduced patterns such as geometric lines, simple, straight and plain straight out of cubists paints. Plus, even in the shape of the clothes, we can see a clear rigor. Chanel admitted herself that cubism and her artists friends left a mark on her work and on the way she saw clothes at the start of this modernist period. Her relationships were also an asset when it came to put her work in new horizons, like comedy and cinema. She created all the dresses for plays like Orphée written by a friend of her, Cocteau, or the outfits destined to the American actress, star of the 20th century, Romy Schneider, who wore Chanel's clothes in front of the camera as well in her day to day looks. Through meetings with new people Gabrielle Chanel made up her mind about fashion and the world, but above all she created clothes for herself. She was her clothes. The lady always wore her outfits, starting by sewing her own dresses, because she didn't feel comfortable in those clothes with too many glitters, accessories and there more was always more. She wanted to choose minimalism, like in cubism, less was more. Her goal? To create clothes adapted to her lifestyle - she sew for herself a sport outfit, one which let her free of her movements - and her tastes, but also adapted to the changes in the modern society she was living in. For her, fashion was outdated, it was time to create the 20th century fashion, something modern, showing how woman has grown in society, what was her new role. 
    By enforcing this new vision, Coco Chanel has been able to create her fashion house which reigned on the entire world, creating at the same time a true myth around her personality. She simply ha revolutionized fashion codes of her time, and was encouraged and congratulated by the most influent persons of the fashion world, like magazines, such as the emblematic Vogue. Her trademark, simplicity. The complete contrary of the clothes society created for women. But her goal wasn't to shock, or to attract all eyes on here to be considered as an "avant-gardiste". No, she simply wanted to get rid off what she didn't like in fashion. Take off all the trivialities, femininity pushed to the limits, when the woman was more ridiculous than elegant. She decided to create against the too glamorous, the too much, making the woman beautiful with simple clothes, highlighting just few parts of the figure, rather showing a mysterious back than a low neckline saying too much. Balzac used an expression to talk about Chanel's style, he said that she has created "the luxury of simplicity". Black, white, geometric and straight lines, using frequently friends and dresses open on the back, she is at the origin of the suits and boleros' reborn which can be adapted from day to night. All of the are emblematic pieces which were made to create Coco Chanel's legend, the mademoiselle of the elegance. All around the world, everybody praises the simplicity of her new codes, the prettiness of the fabric that she uses, like crêpe de soie for evening dresses, with a short tail added on the back and few flounces on the front, or the even more popular tweed used on the suits. Her outfits were always mean to be comfortable, easy to wear and always elegant. 

  We know that Coco Chanel is at the origin of many emblematic basics, still nowadays, but the fact that she had classical tastes wasn't a problem for her to go with her time. He tastes and ideas were always in movement, she knew how to move on and go further. But always, in the moving, she kept her basis to make them evolve. Staying true to herself and at the same time going with the flow. Simplicity and elegance had to be a part of her work, whatever fashion asked. For example, in 1927, dresses with low waist was the new thing everybody was asking for. So Coco decided to follow the flow, and introduced this emblematic shape of the 20's in her collection. But, in her own way. Actually, she kept the figure, but added crossed draperies on the chest or her famous fringes. She knew how to make herself every shape, to make the clothes according to fashion, but keep going with her own style, whom prevail with elegance and beauty of the fabrics. And she made no mistakes with it. Vogue US wrote about her, "she has the talent to never go wrong". Infallible legend? Maybe not. World War II had been a rough time for every field, and afterwards, it wasn't that easy to go back in business and know how to please women who had change their way of living. During the war, Chanel decided to stop her activities. She thought that it was out of context to continue fashion in such a difficult period. Only her perfumes and accessories store stayed open during war? And she'll be back only in 1947, with in mind the idea to adapt herself to History women's new state of mind. In 1949, ready-made clothes were born. A more accessible fashion, whom democratize, down in the streets, and based on the simplicity and classical pieces trying to adapt themselves  to modernity. Most of what Gabrielle Chanel did during all her career. She tries to keep going, but in 1954, after a couple of tough years in this new world, mademoiselle has to face a defeat. A show which has "completely failed'. European fashion is disappointed, and inly the U.S kept supporting her, by adopting her strict style centered on suits and austere but still elegant pieces. The legend had some difficulties to reborn after war.     
   Nevertheless, mademoiselle refused to give up and decided to go on forgetting about the critics. One more time, her strong character had save her, giving her the strength and motivation needed to take a fresh start. She'll be back in 1957, with an amazing collection whom amazed everybody. This year as the one of the creation of emblematic pieces whom still must-have today, like the suit, the black dress, or the low heels in black and beige, and finally the quilted bag with a golden chain, a true legend. 1957 was also the year she received her Fashion Howard in Dallas, highpoint of her impressive career. Her legend was set in the fashion world and meant to survive time. Nevertheless, we shouldn't forget about the woman behind the name, no matter the designers who took care of her brand after her death, Gabrielle Chanel still the master of the house by creating her clothes and making her personal tastes legendary in the whole world. She passed on the 10th of January 1971, after a life full of success, fashion, stars, dresses, bags, and above all, women. The timeless mademoiselle keeps for sure this idyllic image of the designer whom created true fashion, but don't forget the woman behind it. Someone who spent her life on her own, unable to keep love in her life, loosing all of her artist friends one after another in tragic situations, and also that woman who fell in love with a German man during war, then finding a shelter in Switzerland, in Lausanne, on the rives of the Leman Lake, where she rests today. Without her sensitive, her story, her loves and friends, without the war and the critics, Coco Chanel would have only been a fashion designer with a name going through years but wearing out with time. However, the story of this woman and the story of Women made out of her a legend who will always win against time, against others designers, against tragedies and changing. The timeless mademoiselle. 

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