Got to love Coco Chanel (1883 – 1971). I know I do. Chanel’s lucky number was 5 (as in her perfume No. 5) so here are is my list of 5; the best books on Coco Chanel that I’ve read:
Coco Chanel; The Illustrated World of a Fashion Icon by Megan Hess (Hardie Grant) For a start, Hess’ illustrations are just pure joy to look at. Pure joy I tell you. Do you recognize her style from her artwork for Ladurée and Tiffany & Co.? This beautifully produced book is an illustrated story of Chanel’s life, her designs and her company. Starting with the inspiration Chanel took from the nuns’ habits from her childhood, horse riding outfits and the dockside workers, we follow Chanel’s career through to her iconic designs. Hess intersperses her gorgeous illustrations with bite-size anecdotes and quotes from Mademoiselle Chanel herself. I like her quote; ‘Luxury must be comfortable, otherwise it is not luxury’. Perfect! Don’t you agree? Also, ‘The best colour in the whole world is the one that looks good on you’. Non? How about, ‘To achieve great things, we must first dream’. Love it. Chanel was a pioneering force and there is no denying her genius and impact on the world of fashion. Wouldn’t you love to visit Coco Chanel’s apartment in Paris? This book is oh so beautifully produced with gorgeous endpapers of Chanel designs and pages edged in silver. I think Mademoiselle would approve. Look out for this book. You won’t be disappointed.
Read my interview with Megan Hess here.
Visit Megan Hess’ website here.
Chanel; Collections and Creations by Daniele Bott (Thames & Hudson) I have had a fascination with Chanel since I was at Uni studying interior design and had to design a showroom in 1930s style. I researched Chanel and found such an intriguing woman who came from a very humble background and then analysed the way women needed to dress for the changing world they live in. For the project I designed a showroom that I thought Chanel might inhabit and in the process I gained a lifetime hero. From start to finish this beautiful book is packed with stunning images. The first time I opened the book it opened to a double-age spread of lipstick colours; I was hooked! After an introduction about Chanel’s history, each chapter focuses on a theme; her iconic suits for women, the camellia flower motif, jewellery in pearls, diamonds and precious jewels, defining fragrances and the concept of the black dress in all their glory. Stunning. Enjoy!
Coco Chanel; Three Weeks 1962 by Douglas Kirkland (Glitterati) I loved the concept of this book – 27 year old photojournalist, Kirkland, was sent to photograph Chanel when she was 79, in 1962. This book is the collection of the never-before-seen photos he took. Chanel really was (and remains) so important in the fashion world – liberating women of their corsets and feathers at the beginning of last century. Kirkland says that when he arrived in July 1962 most Parisians were away on holidays and he knew very little about Chanel. Over the next three weeks, he formed a friendship with Mademoiselle and took candid photos of her peeking around screens, what she kept close to her on her coffee table, her expressions at fittings, fashion parades and her beautiful smiles. He quotes Chanel saying ‘Dress shabbily and they remember the dress; dress impeccably and they remember the woman’ and ‘You can be gorgeous at twenty, charming at forty and irresistible for the rest of your life’. Love it!
Read my interview with Douglas Kirkland here.
Visit Douglas Kirkland’s website here.
Coco Chanel; The Legend And The Life by Justine Picardie (Harper Collins Publishers) This is a beautifully respectful book about the legendary Coco Chanel. Looking at alternatives to restrictive women’s underclothes of the early 1900s, Chanel started combining men’s clothing and created much more streamlined and practical clothes for women from about 1920 until the 1970s. She created simple, pared-down looks and this book is well illustrated with lots of fascinating personal photos and clothing designs. It also explains in describes in detail just how and why Chanel became so influential and famous; what obstacles she overcame, what pressures she faced, what thoughts did she had and what was essentially important to her and her way of life. A great read.
Coco and the Little Black Dress by Annemarie van Haeringen (NorthSouth Books) This book is pure joy from the dress-maker cutting patterns on the endpapers to the layout, to the graphics and, of course the divine illustrations. Dutch picture book author and illustrator, van Haeringen, illuminates little Coco in the orphanage, dressmaking and her inspiration for clothing styles and hats. Van Haeringen’s beautiful graphic style reflects Chanel’s value in the importance of comfort and the beauty of simplicity. Chanel’s daring embrace of black as a high-fashion colour, making her the champion of ‘the little black dress’ as a wardrobe staple is celebrated on the last page showing a parade of women of every size and shape wearing one. Pure joy I tell you!