A rare treat, Chanel Chanel is a 61-minute documentary from 1986 featuring biographical information on Gabrielle Chanel’s background and rise to fashion fame and legend, but also lets Mademoiselle speak for herself. In an interview she must’ve given in the mid-1960s, Coco is as feisty as ever, talking about the details of her life and style. Another fascinating aspect is a younger Karl Lagerfeld, who would’ve only been three years into his role as Chanel’s creative director at the time the movie was made. He gives several interviews and shows the three huge collage books he made, with pictures of Coco’s designs in the 20s, 30s, and 50s.
|Karl Lagerfeld. He looks this young in the documentary.|
I was struck by how knowledgeable Lagerfeld is about fashion history. He really knows his stuff! At one point, looking at Chanel’s designs from the 1920s he says, “I could replace any of these dresses with Patou, Molyneux or Lanvin, no one would know the difference.” Wow!
Talking of Chanel’s later years Lagerfeld notes, “I think she found the typical Chanel look late in her life.” Chanel closed her house in 1939, at the start of World War II, and didn’t reopen it until 1954. It was then, when Chanel was in her seventies, that she introduced the bouclé suit that became so iconic and emblematic of the Chanel style. Lagerfeld thinks the long break she took gave Coco a perfect distance to her life and earlier work. “She stopped and started again,” he says. “And that makes a big difference.”
As for shaking up the house of Chanel with his bold designs he remarks, “You cannot design a collection with respect, I think it can paralyze you.”
Chanel Chanel gives a quick and entertaining overview of the woman who built not only a company but a remarkable life. It also provides a glimpse of the man who has helped build Chanel the brand into a global powerhouse over the past 29 years.
I found a copy of Chanel Chanel at the Brooklyn Public Library. Netflix does not have it yet, but it appears they are going to be getting it at some point, so save it to your queue! I highly recommend it.