Gabrielle Chanel: Fashion Manifesto

Thames & Hudson. Nov. 2020. 304p. ed. by ed. by Miren Arzalluz & Véronique Belloir. ISBN 9780500023464. $60. DEC ARTS
Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel is probably the most famous woman designer in fashion history, and Chanel is one of the fashion houses with the most enduring legacy. This title, written by fashion historians, accompanies the first exhibition in Paris on the couturière and examines the evolution of the Chanel style. Beginning in the 1910s with shops in Biarritz and Deauville, Chanel designed her clothes according to her own needs and image, translating aspects of menswear and the clean lines of sportswear into her earliest creations. She then opened her fashion house in Paris in 1918, bringing tailoring into dresses of simple elegance in the 1920s and ’30s. But Chanel’s fashion house was a holistic enterprise; she also created her first now-legendary perfume, Chanel No. 5, in 1921, along with makeup, distinctive jewelry (both costume and fine), and later in the 1950s, signature quilted leather bags, two-tone slingback shoes, and the Chanel suit. Included are many images of her designs; archival photos of the designer and her models, friends, and creative collaborators; and a time line of her career.
VERDICT This volume does not focus on Chanel’s biography or her collaboration with the Nazi regime in wartime; for that, see Hal Vaughan’s Sleeping with the Enemy and other biographies of the designer. Rather, it spotlights Chanel’s creations and how she marketed her style and created a brand. This excellent volume is recommended for readers interested in fashion history and French fashion in general.
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