As every style-obsessed woman knows, 2011 was the year of the Chanel biography. Having seen the fashion films Coco Chanel and Igor Stravinsky and Coco Before Chanel, starring Audrey Tautou as the adorable singer/hatmaker/couturière on the rise, we here at the Brooklyn Gal couldn’t resist jumping on the Coco bandwagon yet again.
At the moment we’re about halfway through Lisa Chaney’s Coco Chanel, An Intimate Life, which seems to grow more intriguing by the chapter. Should we still find ourselves curious about the designer’s dark side, including her alleged Nazi sympathies (quelle horreur — how could it be so?), we may even dip our toe into Coco Chanel: The Legend and The Life by Justine Picardie or Sleeping with the Enemy: Coco Chanel’s Secret War by Hal Vaughan.
Or perhaps we will just revisit yet another Chanel homage, a lovely novel by Gioia Diliberto
called The Collection about Isabelle Varlet, a wide-eyed seamstress from a tiny town in France who moves to Paris and takes a job in the atelier of Gabrielle ‘Coco’ Chanel.
Blending historical facts with a compelling story, much as she did with her page-turner I Am Madame X, Diliberto takes us on a ride back to the world of high fashion after World War I. Weaving together characters both real and imagined, she paints a portrait of Mademoiselle Coco that’s ultimately flattering and one of Jean Patou, that’s far less so. Though a work of fiction, we happen to think it’s essential reading for any fan of fashion.