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La Chanelphile

October 29, 2012

Coco Chanel and The Société Baudelaire

coco chanel charles baudelaire

A few months ago I came across a website devoted to Coco Chanel created by the Société Baudelaire. I was intrigued because I didn’t understand the connection between Coco Chanel and Charles Baudelaire, a preeminent 19th-century French poet. Upon further investigation, I realized how closely the two were linked.

Coco Chanel Discovers Charles Baudelaire

Coco Chanel became acquainted with the work of Charles Baudelaire through her love, Boy Capel, who introduced a poem called “Bludgeon the Poor” to her. For the full text of “Assommons les Pauvres!” or, “Bludgeon the Poor!” visit the French Poetry Blog. As harsh as the title may seem, the poem is about integrity and redemption and probably struck a chord with Coco Chanel who came from an impoverished background.

baudelaire flowers of evil

Coco Chanel and the Société Baudelaire

Chanel later came in contact with the Société Baudelaire later through another one of her loves the Duke of Westminster who was a Dandy (a term that Baudelaire defined). Since Dandyism has so much to do with one’s appearance and dress, Chanel wanted to be included among the designers who defined French Elegance. She brought sketches of existing designs that she felt illustrated women in several poems to the Société Baudelaire. Dubbed the Flowers of Evil collection (after a book of poems by Baudelaire), she was working on a presentation of the collection, and even a fragrance, both of which did not come to pass unfortunately. Notwithstanding, Coco Chanel began a long relationship with the Société Baudelaire that culminated with her running for president of the Société Baudelaire.

Since Coco Chanel had such a close relationship to the Société Baudelaire, it then made more sense to me why they would create a website devoted to Coco Chanel. Shortly after I found out about the website, I was contacted by a representative of the Société Baudelaire who informed me of another website created by the Société dubbed Chanel’s War, the website publishes the transcript of an interview between Coco Chanel and Malcolm Muggeridge.

Coco Chanel Interview by Malcolm Muggeridge

Malcolm Muggeridge was an MI6 agent, and the only one who interviewed Coco Chanel about her WWII activities. The interview took place in France in 1944 and for the first time, this interview is available to the public to read. In light of distasteful accusations against Coco Chanel made by authors such as Hal Vaughn, the Société Baudelaire felt compelled to defend “the goddess of Baudelairean Dandyism”. The interview is introduced by Gabrielle Labrunie (Chanel’s great-niece and author of ‘Intimate Chanel‘) and features a recent testimony from her about the interview. You can read the full Muggeridge interview of Coco Chanel about her WWII activities in full on the Chanel-Muggeridge.com.

Since it’s in her own words, I find this the most convincing evidence of her WWII activities and I am not convinced by Hal Vaughn’s arguments. I invite you to read the interview yourself and come to your own conclusions.  I would love to hear some of your responses below in the comments.

Tomorrow, I will share an interview I had the honor of conducting with Isée St. John Knowles, the President of the Société Baudelaire.

 

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Filed under: Chanel,Coco Chanel — Tags: — La Chanelphile @ 4:07 am

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