Coco Chanel | The Legend and the Life by Justine Picardie

I realize that from my previous post, I talked about writing a book review about Harper Lee’s “To Kill A Mockingbird.” Truth be told, I’m only halfway through because I’ve been meaning to finish the biography of one of the most iconic game changers of fashion that is Mademoiselle Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel.

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Now if you are not familiar with her, I’m going to link a few biographies that I’ve scampered through the net if you don’t have the time to read Justine Picardie’s book. But I do recommend buying this book to fashion enthusiasts, like myself, because Justine Picardie is the Einstein of Coco Chanel (only proclaimed by me). She knows everything there is to know about the designer.

My love affair with Chanel have only been recent, just as how I have been mesmerized by the glamour encompassed by the 1950’s to the 1960’s. Glamour can be found not only through fashion but to the women as well who made the difference just like Audrey Hepburn. I believe it was only at the brink of my junior year in college that I’ve been fascinated with Coco Chanel. I’ve told my friends a couple of times that if I were to describe how my life peg would be, it can be simplified into three sentences:

I want to be as successful as Anna Wintour. I want to age like Audrey Hepburn; and I want to be timeless like Coco Chanel.

– Cara Emmeline Garcia

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Coco Chanel is my peg whether in terms of fashion, beauty and glamour. My classmates always quipped that I am the “Top of mind brand” when it comes to Chanel and vice versa. Advertising jokes aside, I really am the nearest number 1 fan Coco Chanel has in the Philippines. I mean, who wouldn’t be amazed by her life?

Justine Picardie writes:

“The story of Chanel begins with an abandoned child, as lost as a girl in a dark fairy tale. Unveiling remarkable new details about Gabrielle Chane’s early years in a convent orphanage, and her flight into unconventional adulthood, Justine Picardie explores what lies beneath the glossy surface of a mythic fashion icon….

….feared and revered by the rest of the fashion industry, Coco Chanel died in 1971 at the age of eighty-seven. But her legacy lives on. Drawing upon her unprecedented access to the Chanel archive, Justine Picardie brings Gabrielle Chanel out of hiding and uncovers the consequences of what Chanel covered up, unpicking the seams between the truth and myth in a story that reveals the true heart of fashion.”

I purchased this book over a month ago to treat myself after Thesis and to pay homage to the great designer. I’ve always been fascinated with her life after the portrayal of Audrey Tautou on “Coco.” My parents and friends have grown to know recently that anything that has the word “Chanel” in it, or anything Chanel-inspired, I have to get it. I know, I’m gaga over Chanel.

I guess one of the reasons why I am in love with her is because of her willingness to become only herself. After reading this book, I realized how empowered Chanel is. She is very head strong on what she wants to achieve whether thru her clothes, her perfume, or her jewels. She always has a reason for everything and she’s willing to fight for what she wants in order to get it. She’s independent, straight forward. No wonder a lot of people during her time felt inferior!

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Another reason why I love Chanel is because of her wild imagination. Recently, I’ve procured a copy of Radiolab’s podcast. They were explaining that there was a study conducted that liars (per se) have more brain cells in their right side of the brain that their left, as well as they turn out to be more successful and happy in life than those of the realist. They became successful, not because they cheated on others, but they cheated on to themselves thru lying. They believed that little lie they tell themselves into thinking who they wanted to be and what they want to get. I know that lying isn’t the best example to use right now but I guess, Chanel is no exception to this study! Justine Picardie explained that there were times when Coco Chanel lied about her life, and making her past more colorful than how it should be. She painted over and over her past as if her life was a blank canvass and no one can ever know which was the truth. And the only thing that was for sure about Chanel was her work, and her work alone.

Timeless and effervescent. During the time when Chanel was reigning supreme, she changed the way women think of fashion. Long was the norm that women should wear corsets and voluptuous layers of gowns, tassels and cloths to feel beautiful. She changed that notion by paving way to shirts made out of jersey. Where women are no longer restricted and contrived. She knew that she wanted to revolutionize the women of the future by empowering them with men-inspired clothing such as pants, shorts, vests, and even the jackets that are still classic staples of today.

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The main thing I love about this book is that it gives us a detailed perspective of what Chanel really is. Despite her thick exterior, she really cares about the people around her most especially those who are close to her. I recalled how she said that family is the most important thing. She said, A simple life, with husband and children –  a life with the people you love – that is the real life.”  She also said, that, “A woman who is not loved is no woman. Whatever her age… A woman needs to be looked at by a man who  loves her. Without that look she dies.” Talk about romantic! Chanel speaks wisdom at everything! She’s like the grandma I’ve always wanted and she’s beyond comparison.

Another thing that I love about this book are the number of photos that we don’t normally see from the internet and the sketches made by the head designer of Chanel, Karl Lagerfeld as well as old sketches of Chanel herself. There are also intimate photos with the Duke of Westminster that are old polaroid photos of Chanel.

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Coco Chanel: Are you not tired of Chanel?
Karl Lagerfeld: No, only of the question.
Spoken like a true master. *imaginary conversation with Chanel and Karl Lagerfeld*

Overall, Justine Picardie gave us a literary glimpse of the life of Chanel. Its thorough story with the most impeccable concern to the most miniscule of detail gives us the knowledge of Chanel in the most intimate of ways. I’ll give it a 4 stars out of 5 because of the thorough research and interviews that Justine Picardie has to deal with. She truly is the Einstein of Coco Chanel. How I wish I was also that up close to Chanel like that.

I promise the next post will be To Kill a Mockingbird.

Love Always,

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Her biography can be viewed here.

Her works:

1. Inside Chanel – For the first time

2. Inside Chanel – Chanel and Marilyn Monroe

3. Inside Chanel – Chanel and the Diamond

4. Inside Chanel – Chanel and the jacket

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