La Chanelphile

September 30, 2011

Book Review: Sleeping With the Enemy – Coco Chanel’s Secret War by Hal Vaughan

When I heard the nasty rumors circulating online about Sleeping With the Enemy: Coco Chanel’s Secret War, a new book that unlocks the secrets of Coco Chanel’s WWII wartime activities I had to get my hands on a copy.  After all, Coco Chanel was my idol since childhood and I didn’t want to look up to a Nazi spy.  On the other hand, claiming someone was a Nazi spy is probably one of the worst things you could say about a person – and I wasn’t going to believe such an accusation without some proof.  You see, a long, long time ago (in a land far away), I was an attorney.  Though I no longer practice law, I don’t take accusations lightly and I firmly believe in “innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.”  That is the standard by which I deem things such as nasty Nazi spy rumors to be true or false.  After reading Hal Vaughan’s Sleeping With the Enemy: Coco Chanel’s Secret War, I am not convinced.

The first half of the book is background information on Chanel and the Paris she inhabited.  There is nothing about her behavior pre-WWII that would cast doubt on her character.  Yet, the tone in which Hal Vaughan writes his book is one of a scorned lover.  Or a woman hater. Or both.  The book reads like a witch hunt and he simply did not like her.  His distaste for Coco Chanel came across in everything he wrote from his description of her appearance to disparaging and sexist comments sprinkled throughout the book.  As I was reading the first half of the book I found myself thinking that if it is with the same analysis that he comes to the Nazi spy conclusions, then his arguments are simply not credible.  But I continued reading and waited to read something convincing.

The second half of the book is where Hal Vaughan lays out his evidence and presents his arguments claiming Coco Chanel was a Nazi spy.  His conclusions are based on archival documents about Chanel’s wartime activities.  Interestingly, Justine Picardie had access to the same documents and devotes two chapters to Chanel’s wartime activities in Coco Chanel: The Legend and The Life, and came to very different conclusions.  How could two people read the same documents and come to such different conclusions?

Hal Vaughan had an idea in his head and he skews the documents to fit his hypothesis, whereas Justine Picardie approached the documents with an analytical eye and also with great knowledge of Coco Chanel.  For example, one set of intelligence records claimed that Coco Chanel was married.  That was simply not true – and something that could easily be verified with state records.  If the intelligence could be wrong about something so easily verifiable, how could you believe anything else in the documents? At the very basis, the source material was not credible.  This is just one example, but there are many more inconsistencies that just don’t add up.  Whereas Hal Vaughan forces the pieces to fit, Justine Picardie lays them out before you and you conclude yourself that there is just no way they can fit together.

Even by giving Hal Vaughan the benefit of the doubt and accepting all of his arguments as true – then Chanel did two things: (1) she unsuccessfully tried to broker peace between Germany and England; and (2) she tried to gain control of her company using anti-Jewish laws.  Picardie addresess both of these issues – Vaughan is not bringing anything new to the table.  But these acts hardly make her a Nazi spy.  Calling someone a Nazi spy implies that she is working for the Nazis.  That simply was not the case.  Though trying to gain control of her company through the use of anti-Jewish laws was unsavory, it also did not make her a Nazi spy.

The final thing that I considered when deciding whose arguments were more convincing were the actual writers themselves.  Justine Picardie, a fashion writer, was the features director of British Vogue and has written for Harper’s BazaarHal Vaughan was a journalist whose writing has been more political in nature.  While Hal Vaughan’s knowledge of Coco Chanel was rudimentary, Justine Picardie literally walked where Coco Chanel walked visiting the convent where Chanel grew up and Chanel’s suite at the Ritz, among other places.  She even tried on Chanel’s very own clothing.  Picardie’s research was so deep that she delved into the very psyche of Coco Chanel.  She knew that Chanel’s greatest creation was her own persona and that you can’t take things at face value when studying Coco Chanel.  When comparing the two – there is in fact no comparison.  Hal Vaughan’s book simply reads as an opportunistic book written to create lots of nasty headlines and rumors online with nothing to back them up.  For that, he did succeed.  In convincing me that Coco Chanel was a Nazi spy, he did not.

If this is issue is important to you I urge you to read both books and come to your own conclusion.  Both books, Sleeping With the Enemy: Coco Chanel’s Secret War and Coco Chanel: The Legend and The Life are available online and you can hear the authors themselves debate the issue on BBC radio.

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Filed under: Chanel,Coco Chanel — Tags: , , — La Chanelphile @ 4:46 am

September 29, 2011

Luxury Online Sales Boosted by Fashion Bloggers & Social Media

Reuters has reported that new research indicates that fashion bloggers will help propel online sales to over $15 billion (€11 billion) by 2015.  Italian luxury foundation Altagamma stated in its “Digital Luxury Experience” report that online luxury sales only account for 2.6 percent of the market but is growing at a rate of 20%.  Moreover, “[b]logs and social media are setting trends more than fashion critics, with one out of two customers turning to Facebook or Twitter for advice before buying.”  I’ve always had a feeling about the power of social media but now we have some actual figures to note.

Luxury fashion brands, normally the brands setting the trends, have lagged behind when it comes to adopting social media.  It’s understandable.  Many of these brands are based around the idea of exclusivity and social media is quite the opposite of that.  How can a brand be everywhere and exclusive at the same time?

It’s not impossible.  Brands like Louis Vuitton, Burberry, Tiffany and Gucci have a strong online presence – you can purchase online and interact with these brands on Facebook and Twitter.  Being “available” online has not hurt the brands, rather, it gives their customers more convenient ways of shopping – what’s more luxurious than not having to get off your couch to order a $5000 handbag?

I would also suggest that being available online also opens the doors to new generations of customers – customers that are practically born with smart phones in their hands.  Many luxury brands have a very loyal following – why not start appealing to customers when they are young?  Many loyal brand customers start out as aspirational shoppers.  Perhaps she can’t afford the 2.55 but she purchases Le Vernis or sunglasses or earrings.  If you can appeal to that customer when she is young – and get her attention online (where other brands are getting her attention) you may have a loyal customer for life.  In a year she may be buying shoes or saving up for a 2.55 or a tweed jacket.  My point is, if luxury brands are making the move online, then the brands that don’t make the move are going to be left behind.

Chanel has done a nice job with their online presence.  They’ve been a bit slow to act, but when they do, their online presence is well executed.  Chanel Beauté is sold online and Chanel has introduced Chanel News (it’s own blog) Makeup Confidential (a beauty website), a Youtube page and a Facebook page.  Chanel is not on Twitter and I am patiently waiting for the day that I can click the “follow” link.  I just hope they do it soon because the younger set is increasingly far removed from knowing about the history of the brand.  With other brands copying the signature looks of the Chanel brand, if the copycat brands make themselves more available to younger consumers, Chanel may miss out on breeding a new generation of Chanelphiles.

**UPDATE 9.30.11**

-Two readers from Europe pointed out that the Chanel e-commerce is available only in the U.S.

-Chanel has also released an iPhone app in addition to all the other social media listed above.

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Filed under: Chanel,Chanel Culture,Chanel Media — Tags: , , — La Chanelphile @ 3:28 pm

September 28, 2011

Chanel Spring-Summer 2012 Ready-to-Wear Invitation

chanel spring 2012 ready to wear invitationAnd… it’s up! I’ve been checking online for days waiting to see the invitation to the Chanel spring-summer 2012 ready-to-wear collection.  The show will take place next week in Paris at the Grand Palais on Tuesday, October 4th.  I’m having a hard time making out Uncle Karl’s sketch – it looks like it may be an under water theme?  Are those bubbles and waves?  Please let me know if you see something else.  I feel like I’m looking at one of those patterns that have a hidden image in them – and no, I was never able to see those back in the 90s either.  In any case, I can’t wait to see the collection and I’m wishing on my lucky stars that maybe I’ll get an actual invitation in the mail one day :)

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Filed under: Chanel,Chanel Ready To Wear — Tags: , , — La Chanelphile @ 4:59 pm

September 27, 2011

Karl Lagerfeld’s NYC Apartment For Sale

karl lagerfeld nyc apartmentIt certainly is a buyer’s market.  Coco Chanel’s very own retreat La Pausa is for sale and now you can purchase Karl Lagerfeld’s NYC apartment for a cool $5,200,000.  Here’s how the New York Times describes the apartment:

Spectacular residence with over 40′ of unobstructed views of historic Gramercy Park. This triple mint, loft-like, 3 bedroom/3.5 bathroom home gets extraordinary southern light and is ideal for both elegant entertaining and easy modern living. The chef’s kitchen boasts Varenna cherry wood cabinets, stainless steel countertops and a white Corian backsplash. All three bedrooms have an abundance of closets and full baths en suite. The master bedroom suite has a separate home office area with built-in bookcases, a large walk-in closet and an oversized master bath with a double vanity, a travertine sink, an oval travertine soaking tub and a separate stall shower. Other features include floor to ceiling windows facing Gramercy Park, new dark oak floors, custom built-in bookcases and a washer/dryer. This exquisite home is set directly on New York’s only private park and adjacent the Gramercy Park Hotel. Ownership in the building includes a key to the Park and access to all hotel services including valet, butler service, housekeeping, catering, room service, event planning, personal shopping, priority reservations, access to the gym and spa, and the private rooftop club.

Not bad, huh?

Images & Info: New York Times and Racked

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Filed under: Chanel — La Chanelphile @ 11:01 pm

Demi Moore in Chanel Resort at Five Premiere

demi moore in chanel resort 2012

Demi Moore was recently spotted wearing a dress from the Chanel 2012 resort collection at the Five premiere in New York.  The blocks of color on the neckline and hem are reminiscent of shards of sea glass.  I like the dress and there’s no denying that Demi looks great but I’m not a fan of the way she wore the dress. I think the length bothers me.  On the runway the dress was shorter – it’s hard to tell because of the tall boots – but it looks like the dress fell right below the models’ knees.  On Demi Moore, it hits her mid-calf which is a difficult length – even for Demi.  I think I would have liked this a lot better if it were shorter on her.   And I wish her hair was styled or up.  What do you think?

Images – Left: Style.com, Right: JustJared.com

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Filed under: Chanel — Tags: — La Chanelphile @ 10:43 pm

Chanel Book Reviews Coming Soon!

Before I went to New York for Fashion Week, I received a bunch of Chanel books.  Just a quick note that I’ll be getting the reviews up shortly.  Working on one right now – hopefully it will be up tomorrow! Back to reading and writing!

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Filed under: Chanel Media,Coco Chanel — Tags: , — La Chanelphile @ 2:10 pm

Les Exclusifs de Chanel JERSEY Out Now

Les Exclusifs de Chanel JerseyEarlier this summer, Chanel announced that they would be introducing two new scents this fall:  Chanel N°19 Poudré and Jersey, a new addition to Les Exlcusifs de Chanel.  I love the Exclusifs de Chanel collection because the premise of the collection is highlighting rare fragrances created by the House of Chanel.  Some of the fragrances are old fragrances that have been revived, while others are new creations.  The new creations are named after places and things that had a large impact on Coco Chanel’s life or on her design such as Coromandel for her beloved laquered screens, Beige for one of her favorite colors and now Jersey.

Jersey is significant because it is the first fabric she worked with in her apparel designs.  Though many of us live in jersey today, back when Chanel began designing apparel (early 20th century – WWI) jersey was only used for men’s undergarments.  This was just one of the revolutionary changes that Chanel made to women’s fashion as jersey is comfortable, movable and doesn’t require corsets.  Chanel’s use of Jersey was the second step toward freeing of women from the shackles of fashion (the first being freeing their heads from enormous overly embellished hats!).

Here is how Chanel describes the scent:

As light and liberating as the modern fabric for which it was named — daringly appropriated from menswear by Coco Chanel for women’s fashions — JERSEY is the new fragrance masterpiece from Chanel Master Perfumer Jacques Polge. An inspired composition, JERSEY is evocative of a meadow lush with lavender — an essence previously worn only by men. A tender trail of Vanilla and Musk brings femininity to the forefront, and a rare, sophisticated new scent is born.

Les Exclusifs de Chanel are available only in Chanel boutiques online at Chanel.com.  I’m going to the San Francisco Chanel boutique this weekend to test out Jersey – I can’t wait to experience it.  Right now I’m favoring Beige as my daily scent but I’ve been considering adding Gardenia to the mix – and now maybe Jersey.

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Filed under: Chanel Fragrance — Tags: , , — La Chanelphile @ 11:16 am

Coco Chanel: The Legend and The Life Available in Paperback

chanel the legend and the life by justine picardie in paperback

Justine Picardie’s Coco Chanel: The Legend and The Life is now available in paperback.  This book is by far one of my favorite biographies on Coco Chanel and I highly recommend it.  I suggest getting her new edition, Chanel – Her Life, printed by Steidl with illustrations by Karl Lagerfeld.  But, if you are not one to keep books around and want a quick read then maybe the paperback is for you.  As for me, I have all the editions – but I’m a little particular about some things :)   You can purchase Justine Picardie’s Coco Chanel: The Legend and The Life on Amazon.com.

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Filed under: Chanel — La Chanelphile @ 10:39 am

Karl Takes A Stroll in Paris

Here’s a recent shot of Uncle Karl strolling in Paris.  I wonder if he’s in deep contemplation about the Chanel Spring-Summer 2012 Ready-to-Wear show next week in Paris?

karl lagerfeld walking in parisMandatory Credit: INFphoto.com Ref: inffr-01/129635|sp|EXCLUSIVE TO INF. ALL-ROUNDER. U.S. SALES ONLY.



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Filed under: Karl Lagerfeld — Tags: — La Chanelphile @ 10:28 am

September 25, 2011

Retna Paints Chanel Robertson Boutique

retna paints chanel beverly hills

True to the spirit of Coco Chanel and her patronage of the arts, Chanel has commissioned Retna, an LA-based artist to paint the interior of the Los Angeles Chanel boutique on Robertson.   I’ve followed Retna‘s work since his AWR/7th Letter Crew days and it’s amazing to see how he’s come up from the streets of LA to working with one of the storied houses of haute couture.

Retna’s signature handstyle is distinctive and beautiful – evocative of many different scripts including of Old English gang graffiti, Asian calligraphy, Incan & Egyptian hieroglyphics, Hebrew and Arabic. I love the black on black writing with white Chanel iconography “tagged” over his own work.

Retna’s years of hard work are paying off.  Earlier this year I attended Retna’s first solo NY exhibition “The Hallelujah World Tour” (opening during New York Fashion Week) and he’ll be appearing in Vanity Fair later this year and photographed by David Lachapelle.

Source: New Image Art

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Filed under: Chanel,Chanel Boutiques,Chanel Culture,Coco Chanel — Tags: , , — La Chanelphile @ 10:47 pm
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