Mysterious, oblique fashion icon of the twentieth century, Gabrielle ‘Coco’ Chanel designed her own story as creatively as she designed her clothes. And this wonderful book by her friend and contemporary, Paul Morand, tells the tale in Coco Chanel’s very own self-aware words.
Paul Morand was born in Paris in 1888. From his first short story collection introduced by his friend Marcel Proust in 1921, he would go on to publish poetry, novels, short stories and travel books.
It was a chaotic time in Europe, shortly after the end of the second world war, when Morand met Chanel in a series of evening interviews during the winter of 1946. Their long conversations in a St. Moritz Hotel during her post war exile from Paris revealed Chanel’s life philosophy. Her words were devoured by Morand and scribbled in notebooks after the meetings. Forgotten until after Chanel’s death in 1971, Morand rediscovered his notes and was surprised at how vivid a picture his scribbles painted of the famously reclusive icon.
Morand’s ‘Allure of Chanel’ was first published in 1976, the year Morand himself died. This is Chanel’s story of Chanel; not so much a biography but selected memories and attitudes told in Chanel’s voice so you can almost hear her joy and venom come from the pages. Alongside Chanel’s story you get to consume her illuminating and critical opinions on the friends and people that surrounded her – Misia Sert, Erik Satie, Igor Stravinsky, Picasso, Jean Cocteau, Blaise Cendrars and Serge Lifar.
In this brand new, deluxe edition, the original prose of Morand’s ‘Allure of Chanel’ are brought alive by new, black and white sketches by Karl Lagerfeld. The images are exquisite of course, of Chanel at her famous Rue de Cambon headquarters, playing cards in Monte Carlo, at leisure on horseback and in Venice; of Chanel fashion through the decades; of the people she was surrounded by.
This is a beautiful book that offers a striking and intimate insight into Chanel’s restlessly creative mind. As Chanel herself said to Morand, “The hardness of the mirror reflects my own hardness back to me; it’s a struggle between it and me – it expresses what is peculiar to myself, a person who is efficient, optimistic, passionate, realistic, combative, mocking and incredulous…there are my gold-brown eyes which guard the entrance to my heart – there one can see that I am a woman. A poor woman.”
‘The Allure of Chanel’ by Paul Morand with illustrations by Karl Lagerfeld is published by Pushkin Press.