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La Chanelphile

October 30, 2012

Interview with Isée St. John Knowles, President of Société Baudelaire

Isée St. John Knowles with Gabrielle Labrunie

Isée St. John Knowles with Gabrielle Labrunie, Coco Chanel’s great-niece
at the Baudelaire Society and Limouse Foundation headquarters.  Image from Société Baudelaire.

As part of researching Coco Chanel’s relationship with the Société Baudelaire I had the honor of conducting an exclusive interview with Isée St. John Knowles, the President of the Société Baudelaire. I asked him questions about Coco Chanel’s activities with the Société Baudelaire as well as the Muggeridge interview. Please read the interview below…

Exclusive Interview with  Isée St. John Knowles, President, Société Baudelaire

Did you ever have occasion to meet Mlle. Chanel? If so, what could you tell us about her that may not be apparent from photos and biographies? If not, what characteristics did the Société Baudelaire see in her that led them to consider her as candidate for the Honorary Presidency of the Société Baudelaire?

I never had the fortune to meet Coco Chanel, although this could have been arranged. I was a mere 19 years old when she died. Nevertheless, I have researched Chanel for many years, especially her experience of the war. Doubtless, I was impelled by the need to answer the question of Chanel’s Baudelairean authenticity. Why did Baudelaire scholars so seriously entertain her candidature for the Société Baudelaire Honorary Presidency? For Chanel herself would have disavowed any claim to being a Baudelairean exegete. Even her personal library yields no evidence of her ever having read a single critical work on Baudelaire. She had, however, read the author himself and discussed his thinking with leading Société Baudelaire authorities. Moreover, in her own ineffable way, she venerated Baudelaire even before having debated his work. In her conviction, Baudelaire stood for values which she herself had upheld in all her trials from girlhood onwards. She believed that Baudelaire’s insights conferred meaning on her own tragedies, giving her the strength to triumph over them. Not even Chanel’s detractors during the Société’s election campaign would ever have questioned her authenticity as a Baudelairean.

Are you familiar with Hal Vaughan’s recent biography of Coco Chanel, Sleeping With the Enemy? How do you respond to his accusations?

Yes, I am conversant both with Hal Vaughan’s work and with almost all the key documents upon which he constructed his case. For decades, in point of fact, these documents were known to the Société Baudelaire. You ask me how I would respond to his book: in order to sell well, an author needs to simplify the arguments. He must fight shy of historic complexities – abhorred by the average media man. Bear in mind, on the other hand, that the Chanel war story is an intricate puzzle, with many missing pieces, including dates that often defy precision and may even conflict. On such insecure foundations as these, establishing the facts will always be a challenge, and one that must be faced. You will readily appreciate the perplexity of the historian’s task in uncovering the truth about the Chanel war story when I stress that, from Vaughan’s own documentation, conclusions can legitimately be inferred about Chanel’s war conduct that are at variance – and sometimes radically in conflict – with his own. To summarise, if Vaughan has set out objectively-presented facts for his reader, his publication may be regarded as a genuine search for historical truth. If, on the other hand, it puts a construction on the facts adduced such as to infer Chanel’s purported guilt of treason and anti-Semitism, then the book should be read as a fiction targeting desperate American housewives.

Does Hal Vaughan know of the Muggeridge interview? If so, how has Hal Vaughan responded to knowledge of the Muggeridge interview of Coco Chanel?

I concede – reluctantly – that neither Vaughan nor any professional historian can fairly be taxed with failing to include the Muggeridge interview with Chanel held in September 1944. For Muggeridge himself used every possible device to deter future historians. At the meeting, he conceived an aversion for Chanel and, in his memoirs, intentionally minimised her significance. Even so, the Rue Cambon meeting provided the underlying themes for his play, Liberation. Only a historian who knew Muggeridge well – as I did – could have discovered in his compendious archives the unedited version of the Chanel interview. Through my agency, Muggeridge acquainted with its existence Jacques Soustelle and other informed witnesses, and only in its edited version. The unabridged version, which also referred to a third person’s relationship with Muggeridge, was destroyed.

Does the Société Baudelaire retain any of the sketches of Chanel’s Flowers of Evil collection or any information on the plans for the fragrance?

Some sketches for gowns chosen by Chanel to feature in her proposed collection on the Flowers of Evil were published in various fashion journals of the day. At the time, there was no inkling of their future use by the designer to interpret Baudelaire’s poems. Given minimal research into Chanel archives, the aborted fashion show for which they were intended could be reconstructed. Chanel passed on to the Baudelairean painter Limouse the full arguments justifying her choice of poems. For the fragrance, the Société was involved from its conception to its naming by Chanel.

In your opinion, does the House of Chanel still embody the philosophy of the Baudelairean Dandy?

Sadly, with Chanel’s passing, the philosophy of the Baudelairean Dandy has been altogether superseded by the cult of celebrity, as practised by the couturiers of our day. Baudelairean Dandyism is solely concerned with the disinterested aspiration of a singularly noble mind to live according to the highest ideals. And in that, Coco Chanel excelled.

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Filed under: Coco Chanel — Tags: — La Chanelphile @ 4:17 am

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

October 22, 2012

Chanel Adds Barrie Knitwear to Its Portfolio

chanel barrie knitwear Jim Carrie and Bruno Pavlosky

Barrie Knitwear managing director Jim Carrie, left, and Chanel president Bruno Pavlosky

Scottish cashmere mill Barrie Knitwear was acquired by Chanel after Barrie’s parent company Dawson International collapsed. In a long tradition of rescuing ateliers through its Paraffection program, Chanel is a protector of fashion craftsmanship and traditions.

CHANEL’s acquisition of Barrie Knitwear in Hawick secures the jobs of all 176 employees and safeguards a historic brand known for the manufacture of high quality cashmere for some of the world’s most prestigious couture houses, department stores and private label outlets.

Bruno Pavlovsky, CHANEL’s Fashion President, said:

The acquisition of Barrie business by CHANEL is all the more natural as the factory has worked with us for more than 25 years, producing cashmere knitwear including CHANEL’s iconic two-tone cashmere cardigans. Through this acquisition, we reaffirm our commitment to traditional expertise and craftsmanship, and our wish to safeguard their future and support their development.

Blair Nimmo, head of restructuring at KPMG in Scotland and joint administrator of Dawson International Trading Ltd, said:

With the sale to CHANEL, we believe we have secured a sustainable future for a business which is of both historical significance to the textile industry and of local importance as a major employer in the Scottish Borders. We would like to thank the staff, customers and suppliers for their patience, loyalty and understanding as we worked towards achieving this sale.

The current management will continue to manage the company, with Jim Carrie as Managing Director and Clive Brown as Sales Director. Barrie will pursue its partnerships with all major luxury brands, with no exclusivity, and grow the presence of its own brands throughout the world.

Image Source: Hawick News

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Filed under: Chanel — Tags: , — La Chanelphile @ 1:45 pm

Chanel’s The Little Black Jacket Exhibit Heads to Sydney

Starting October 27th, Chanel’s The Little Black Jacket Exhibit will be shown in Sydney, Australia. The little jacket that could is making its way around the world making stops in fashionable cities like Tokyo, Taipei, Hong Kong, New York, London and Moscow. After Syndey the exhibit will make stops in Paris and Berlin. Check out the preview below for the Sydney show…

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Filed under: Chanel Culture — Tags: , — La Chanelphile @ 10:08 am

October 21, 2012

Saturday Night Live Spoofs Brad Pitt for Chanel N°5

Last night I was watching Saturday Night Live and saw not one, but four spoofs of Brad Pitt’s new commercials for Chanel N°5.  They were pretty funny – you can see the below.  Hope you have a good laugh – it’s good not to take everything too seriously :)

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Filed under: Chanel,Chanel Ad Campaigns — Tags: , — La Chanelphile @ 1:36 pm

October 19, 2012

Chanel’s The Little Black Jacket Exhibit in Moscow Video

Chanel’s whirlwind tour of The Little Black Jacket exhibit has arrived in Moscow and the opening party was last night. Mila Jovovich provided the soundtrack as celebrities and high-rollers took in the sights. Check out the video below which features interviews with Elena Perminova, Vanessa Paradis, Sergey Nicolaevich and Svetlana Bondarchuk.

Have a nice weekend!

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Filed under: Chanel,Chanel Culture — Tags: , — La Chanelphile @ 1:36 pm

October 18, 2012

Chanel The Little Black Jacket – LONDON and MOSCOW

Chanel’s The Little Black Jacket exhibition came and went in London and is now en route to Moscow on its global tour.  Below you’ll find a video of the London exhibition with interviews with Stella Tennant, Chloe Moretz, Arizona Muse and Haider Ackermann with music by Lou Doillon and a sneak peek of the Moscow show opening on October 20th.

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

October 16, 2012

CHANEL N°5 Ad Film with Brad Pitt Part 2 – Wherever I Go

Here is part two of the Chanel N°5 commercial film featuring Brad Pitt and directed by Joe Wright.  The film uses the same audio of the first film with Brad Pitt speaking in the background but the imagery shows different women and of course, the iconic bottle of Chanel N°5.   I think people that didn’t like the first ad may enjoy this one more.  I enjoy both of them and I can’t wait to see more!

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Filed under: Chanel,Chanel Ad Campaigns,Chanel Fragrance — Tags: , , — La Chanelphile @ 8:13 pm

October 14, 2012

Brad Pitt for Chanel N°5 – Photos by Mario Sorrenti

Chanel recently premiered the new Chanel N°5 ad featuring Brad Pitt and directed by Joe Wright.  Sam Taylor-Wood took photos of the behind the scenes filming of the commercial ad and Chanel also sent images of Brad Pitt photographed by Mario Sorrenti.  You can see the Mario Sorrenti images below . . .

Brad Pitt Chanel No5 Mario Sorrenti

Brad Pitt Chanel No5 Mario Sorrenti

Brad Pitt Chanel No5 Mario Sorrenti

Brad Pitt Chanel No5 Mario Sorrenti

Brad Pitt Chanel No5 Mario Sorrenti

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Filed under: Chanel,Chanel Ad Campaigns,Chanel Fragrance — Tags: , , — La Chanelphile @ 11:31 pm

Brad Pitt for Chanel N°5 – Behind the Scenes

Chanel just premiered its first in a series of commercial films for Chanel N°5 directed by Joe Wright and featuring Brad Pitt. Here are some shots of the behind the scenes action as photographed by Sam Taylor-Wood.

brad pitt chanel no 5 by sam taylor wood

brad pitt chanel no 5 by sam taylor wood

brad pitt chanel no 5 by sam taylor wood

brad pitt chanel no 5 by sam taylor wood

brad pitt chanel no 5 by sam taylor wood

brad pitt chanel no 5 by sam taylor wood

brad pitt chanel no 5 by sam taylor wood

brad pitt chanel no 5 by sam taylor wood

brad pitt chanel no 5 by sam taylor wood

brad pitt chanel no 5 by sam taylor wood

brad pitt chanel no 5 by sam taylor wood

brad pitt chanel no 5 by sam taylor wood

brad pitt chanel no 5 by sam taylor wood

brad pitt chanel no 5 by sam taylor wood

brad pitt chanel no 5 by sam taylor wood

All Photos by Sam Taylor-Wood courtesy of Chanel

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Filed under: Chanel,Chanel Ad Campaigns — Tags: , , — La Chanelphile @ 11:21 pm
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