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Coco Chanel: An Intimate Life


With icons come hagiography, and the past few years have seen a stack of books — at least seven since 2010 — and three biopics on the subject of Chanel. But, as any devotee might tell you, the woman makes a slippery subject. The latest effort, Lisa Chaney’s Chanel: An Intimate Life, though likely the most thoroughly researched biography to date, still demonstrates the limits of representing this laconic, witty, imperious woman. A celebrity for half a century, Chanel took great pains in crafting her myth and obscuring certain passages of her life. Self-conscious about her writing, she corresponded infrequently and with little expression and did not keep a journal. Instead, she left us a wealth of aphorisms — “A woman has the age she deserves” — clever, often contradictory, and revealing nothing of the aphorist. But even if the person remains largely unknowable, Chanel the celebrity, the couturière, is less opaque. We have her career and business model to work from, her brilliant craft of persona, thousands of designs, and her seductive lifestyle modernism. Only in relation to broader aesthetic and political currents can any sense be made of her life and designs; only then can we move from the mythic to the historical.

In "Chanel: An Intimate Life", acclaimed biographer Lisa Chaney tells the controversial story of the fashion icon who starred in her tumultuous era. Coco Chanel was many things to many people. Raised in emotional and financial poverty, she became one of the defining figures of the twentieth century. She was mistress to aristocrats, artists and spies. She broke rules of style and decorum, seducing both men and women, yet in her work expected the highest standards. She took a 'plaything' and turned it into a global industry which defined the modern woman. Filled with new insights and thrilling discoveries, Lisa Chaney's "Chanel" provides the most defining and provocative portrait yet. "Chaney's research is laudable, uncovering fresh details of Chanel's well-trodden rag trade to riches story". ("Evening Standard"). "An unflinching examination of the historically inscrutable designer". ("Vogue"). Lisa Chaney has lectured and tutored in the history of art and literature, made TV and radio broadcasts on the history of culture, and reviewed and written for journals and newspapers, including "The Sunday Times", the "Spectator" and the "Guardian".She is the author of two previous biographies: "Elizabeth David" and "Hide-and-Seek With Angels: The Life of J.M. Barrie".


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