Book Reviews & Essays on Literature

Coco Chanel – A Biography, by Axel Madsen

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Coco Chanel, a Biography, by Alex Madsen

Coco Chanel – A Biography, by Alex Madsen

(Bloomsbury, 03/08/2009, paperback, from the series: Bloomsbury Lives of Women)

It seems that Coco Chanel was not the sweet little ingénue she was made out to be in the 2009 film Coco Avant [before] Chanel.

According to this biography – one of many written about her –  she was tough, bad-tempered, neurotic, eccentric and an unapologetic liar: “She made up things”. She applied her knack for fabrication to her own identity as well as to the clothing lines she introduced. These were based on what she personally liked to wear, starting with masculine-type clothes, then droopy dresses and sports wear – and the rest is history. Madsen focuses on her associates, admirers and financiers, rather than the details of her designs and styles.

Chanel, in later life, was fortunate to be in the right place at the right time, and one wonders whether an untrained, gauche entrepreneur like her would have been as successful in today’s fashion world.

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