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Coco Chanel Interview

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by

Sarah Lapham

on 5 March 2013

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Transcript of Coco Chanel Interview

Sarah Lapham Coco Chanel Interview You came from humble means, growing up as an orphan and resorting to prostitution in your earlier years. How was it to rub elbows with the wealthy society people? There were many men in your life, did they influence your work at all?
What prompted you to creates such radical and different pieces such as raising the hemline and straying away from such tight and constricting designs?
You employed the socialites you say not to have liked, why was this? Society people amuse me more than the others, they have wit, tact, a charming dishonesty, they have a well-bred nonchalance and a very specific arrogance. When I was first being introduced into their social circles I felt out of place and they made it clear I was not meant to be there. But soon I was dressing all of them, everyone wanted to be dressed by Chanel even when I had them wearing fabrics seen only before on the peasants, when when I turned their precious society rules on its head. I did not employ these snobbish rich people to patronize them or snub them in any way, they did, however, help me in more ways than one. Not only did they help to sell my products and add to the exclusivity of my salons, but they let me in on other society details. They represented me further and as I helped these socialites who were losing money fast after the war, they helped me by furthering my influence into society. Etienne Balsan was the first man of any importance to me, I would become his live-in mistress. He would be the man to get my business going. Because I would become bored at the chateau, I asked him to give me the means to start my own hat business; already I had made my own hats and received many complements. As my business began to grow I was able to pay Etienne for all that he had done. When I met Arthur Capel I set up another shop to be closer to his apartment where I would soon enough be living. Arthur and I had a relationship for many years, but his greatest influence on my work was after his fatal car accident. I fell into a great depression for this man I loved and threw myself entirely into my work, my collection grew as did my customers. I always enjoyed sports, whether it would be tennis or riding, and the outfits of my time simply would not allow me to keep up with the boys. They were much too restricting, too tight and too much fabric for the skirt. I looked at the men’s clothing, how simple of line and cut and how fluid their motions could be and that is what I wanted to wear. That is what influence my early pieces, however the general idea remained throughout all my collection. You took some time off from designing after World War II, why was that and why did you return? Well, I was exiled to Switzerland after the war because I was accused of sleeping with the enemy. France was under German occupation and I met a man who I began to have an affair with, but so were all the society women! As for returning to fashion, it was not only because I was terribly bored without designing, but for that wretched Dior and his designs! What were your thoughts when collections such as Schiaparelli’s and Dior’s came out? Schiaparelli was foolish and she knew what I thought of her and her absurd creations, I made it quite clear how little I thought of them. Her strange lobster dress and the shoe hat, why they even became popular I have no idea. I strove for simplicity and wearable designs that though they were exclusive, anyone could wear them. Schiaparelli used bold, ostentatious colors that were worn only for people to get a rise out of the crowd. No one paid any attention to the wearer, only the designer. As for Dior, he came about when I was still in exile. He turned fashion on its head certainly, with his creative shows that everyone was wild for, however the clothes? Exactly what I had been striving to get women away from thirty years prior! They were all so tight and restricting, and all they did was accentuate the hips and bosom, as if every woman has that hourglass shape! But my style held true and soon enough it was once again what all the women were wearing. In what ways did Misia Sert affect your life? Misia was my best friend, and I would probably call her the only woman who remained in my life that I trusted and could be honest with. Misia claims to have discovered me, of course that is not true, she did bring me into her social circles though in those early years when I had only just begun. She introduced me to artists, Picasso for example who would indeed become my lover for a while. She was also a hard morphine addict which later would catch up with her. I loved her dearly though. She also introduced me to morphine and as did most artists of my time who would either resort to morphine or opium. You had a love/hate relationship with the Wertheimer brothers, your perfumers, could you elaborate on that some? Yes, I could get along with these two at one moment and be screaming at them the next. THer were brilliant perfumers and would be the creators of my most famous perfume. However they duped me! We never signed any papers and I ended up receiving only 10% of profits off Chanel #5. Well soon enough it was the most popular perfume in the world, it wasn’t until ’47 when I finally won the court case to get more profit when I would become a multimillionaire. Of course those two had been profiting for over 20 years. What was your reaction when you saw the knock-offs of your designs in the streets of New York City? I believe that fashion that does not reach the streets is actually not fashion at all. My brand had an expensive exclusiveness about it, however that does not mean I did not want my designs to be copied for those not a part of high society. If all women were wearing my designs that meant what I had created could last, it was practical and conjoined all members of society. What advice do you have for the woman looking for an outfit to wear? Your clothes should not define who you are, they should give an insight into your personality. You’re clothing should not be your entirety, only the background to who you are. While some clothing may come into style as outrageous as Schiaparelli’s one must continue to be practical for the lifestyle one is living. Works Cited Chaney, Lisa. Coco Chanel: An Intimate Life. New York: Viking, 2011. Print.
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