I am wrestling with Coco Chanel, she with her chic black bob, cool elegant demeanor, classic black skirt suit and twin set. Not just wrestling, but, in my mind we are having a full on eyes gouged, manicured taloned catfight. Yes she is the bane of my existence, but also my guilty obsession. It is a love-hate relationship. She is Scarlet to my Rhett.
Gabriel “Coco” Bonheur Chanel was a French designer, founder of the famous luxury brand “Chanel”. In the 1920s she rose from being a simple milliner to a designer who revolutionized women fashion. By replacing the corset and other frippery with the comfort and casual elegance of simple suits, dresses and trousers, she freed women of the time from the constraints of the home and of fashion that dictated that those who could would not work.
Chanel is also known for chunky costume jewelry in gold and pearls, the musky scent of Chanel No. 5 and exquisite leather goods like the Chanel Classic Flap handbag.
The House of Chanel is one of the most enduring and well-known brands in fashion. Its stores are located in the swankiest shopping addresses across the globe. Its wares are noted for their beauty, craftsmanship, design and elegance. They are also eye wateringly expensive. Part of the mystique to me is the utter aloofness of the shop assistants. I think they have special training on Parisian “attitude” which also includes a sixth sense, so that they can tell at a glance whether you are “just looking” or “dropping thousands”. It is part of the marketing, the selling of unobtainable dreams.
After her death in the 70’s brand Chanel took on a period of hiatus. The classic items sold reasonably, but it was considered your grandmother’s clothes shop. Karl Lagerfeld took over in the 80’s and energized the brand, giving it street credibility and at the same time not alienating its core clientele, the ones who would regularly spend thousands of dollars on a skirt and jacket.
Chanel fans range from tai-tais, ladies who lunch, Hollywood starlets, captains of industry to office workers and mistresses in tight leather. Chanel is what every grown up girl aspires to.
And that is my problem. I consider myself grown up - career, weekend column, kids in high school. But, I have never bought anything from a Chanel boutique, ever. Not even the perfume.
I have always prided myself on my quirky “alternative” tastes in fashion. My preference is for one-off designs, and outside-of-the-mainstream designers. This has suited me well in the 20 years since school.
Is it peer pressure? One goes to a function these days, and every one has a designer bag, even the girls fresh from university just starting up their jobs. Work is taking me to London in a few days and my sister-in-law is nudging me on the bargains to be had at Chanel, Heathrow Terminal 3, and the fantastic exchange rates.
Well I don’t know, and this is the reason why I wrestle with Coco. Give in, and purchase a beautiful black leather temptation? Or stick with my alternative, and much easier on the credit card, fashion preferences?
I would dearly love one day to bamboozle the sixth sense of the Chanel shop girls, it is one of those things that need to be ticked off the list.
But we will see. As Scarlet O Hara said to Rhett Butler, at the end of “Gone with the Wind, “tomorrow is another day…”
Illustration by Cuboi Art.
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