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A life cut on the bias THE chain handle handbag. The little black dress. Trousers for women. The suntan. Nearly 100 years after she first set up shop in the rue Cambon, Gabrielle "Coco" Chanel s legacy remains as strong as ever. Even that iconic fitted tweed suit which she was inspired to design following a visit to Scotland with her lover the Duke of Westminster has been Cheap Moncler Jackets copied so many times on the high street it is a full on design classic. Next month will see the release of the hotly anticipated film Coco Before Chanel, based on a book by the designer s official biographer Edmonde Charles Roux, focusing on her turbulent life before she became famous for fashion and starring Audrey Tautou in the title role. Meanwhile, another film, Coco Chanel Igor Stravinsky was chosen to close the Cannes festival this year, telling the story of Gabrielle s alleged love affair with the Russian composer and featuring the French actress Anna Mouglalis. There is at least one other biopic in the works, with Demi Moore rumoured to be pencilled in to play Coco. In the early days of the 20th century, a time when women were constrained by corsets, encumbered by long skirts and teetering around helplessly on their high heels and tight shoes, Chanel s revolutionary designs focused on simplicity, movement and comfort. She even once dictated that women should only ever wear artificial jewels. Here, then, was a feisty, independent woman; a woman way ahead of her time, yet for whom the one thing she desperately wanted was kept tantalisingly out of reach. Born in 1883 in Saumur, in rural France, Gabrielle was abandoned at the age of 11 by her philandering father just a week after the premature death of her mother. Brought up in an orphanage, the fiercely ambitious Chanel continued to deny the truth of her humble beginnings throughout her life. She claimed her mother had tuberculosis; in fact she was plagued by something much less poetic asthma. She conjured up a father who owned vineyards and was fluent in English; an irresistible seducer and a charmer. In fact, Albert had first abandoned Gabrielle s mother when she discovered she was pregnant and had to be hunted down and persuaded to make an honest woman of her. He then spent the rest of their time together trying to escape the tedious constraints of family life. "My parents couldn t bear mess and untidiness," the designer Moncler Kids Dark Blue Clothing 2 Pieces Set With Fur Hat once told Louise de Vilmorin, whom she was trying to persuade to write her memoirs. "They had a natural penchant for everything clean, fresh, of good quality; that is why people commented upon the note of elegance about our horse and buggy that was so uncommon in the countryside." In her book Chanel, Her Life, Her World, The Woman Behind the Legend, Charles Roux muses: "All of this, which brings both a smile and a sigh of pity to the lips, would not be worth a pause, and no one would care in the slightest . were it not that in these slivers of truth we have Albert Chanel s final appearance in the role of father free at last, widower at last, driving his shabby little cart with two of his daughters in it to the orphanage." Even the word orphanage never passed Gabrielle s lips; she claimed to have been brought up by two aunts instead, and in the end de Vilmorin abandoned hope of obtaining any semblance of the truth from her subject and gave up on the memoirs altogether. In her teens, Gabrielle worked as a shop girl but entertained fantasies of becoming a singer. She performed for groups of rowdy infantrymen stationed near her home of Moulins, and it was here that she gained the nickname of Coco, after the only two songs in her limited repertoire: one called Ko Ko Ri Ko and the other, Qui Au a Vu Coco Dans L Trocadero? "After finishing her song," writes Charles Roux, "the debutante named Coco not by her father, as she tried her whole life long to make people believe, but by an audience of soldiers on the town curtsied gracefully and returned to her seat." In reality, however, she lacked singing talent "you don t have a voice," she was told in no uncertain terms, "and you sing like a trombone" and a career on the stage would always elude her. But her fiercest critic was also the man who was to change the course of her life. Etienne Balsan was a well to do racehorse breeder who proposed to Gabrielle, not marriage, but a life of relative luxury as his mistress. He set her up in his chateau, introduced her to the good life and convinced her she wanted more. It was Balsan who, in the early part of the 20th century, established his lover in his Paris bachelor pad, where she managed to build up a successful millinery trade. But she was already setting her sights on bigger and better things. One of Balsan s friends also appeared on the scene around this time an Englishman named Arthur "Boy" Capel. He encouraged Gabrielle, persuaded his acquaintances to do business with her . and was soon sleeping with her. "Being a decent chap," writes Charles Roux, "Etienne continued to lend her his bachelor flat, although he knew perfectly well she was sleeping elsewhere. The change of regime took place without tears or scenes. It was a switchabout in the best tradition of French philandering. When Arthur Capel replaced Balsan, as a matter of course it was he who advanced the money to buy the shop." And so Chanel moved to an address that was to become inextricably linked with her own name rue Cambon and a pattern was established. As with Balsan, Capel never proposed. "That she ardently longed to marry him is beyond all doubt," writes Charles Roux, "but it was never remotely on the cards." Other lovers followed over the years, Grand Duke Dmitri Pavlovich, the poet Pierre Reverdy, the Duke of Westminster, and friendships with some of the most influential artists of the day Picasso, Jean Cocteau, Stravinsky all the while Chanel becoming ever more successful in her own right. "In her own way, Chanel derived real benefits from these liaisons," says Charles Roux. "With the Russian she developed a taste for warm, fur lined coats and for fabrics of almost Byzantine opulence, while through the Englishman she fell in love with British tweeds, which she had women wear with jersey blouses and ropes of pearls, a revolutionary combination at the time." Effortlessly stylish, independently wealthy, courted by millionaires it s an image we buy into today, albeit unconsciously, when we pick up a pair of entwined double C sunglasses or that classic, cubist bottle of No 5. But as business boomed and the money poured in she is said to have made 15 million on the No 5 scent alone the one thing she aspired to remained as elusive as ever. Marriage. "Gabrielle professed to have only modest aspirations," says Charles Roux, "wanting true love, to be chosen, preferred, and that the choice be for always. But destiny decreed that such happiness would never be hers." At the age of 56, she embarked on an affair with a German spy known only as Spatz (the Sparrow). She had already incurred the wrath of her contemporaries by shutting up shop following the occupation of Paris by the Germans, a desertion that became known in fashion circles as Chanel s treason, and this affair, if she had not managed to keep it secret for so long, could have ruined her. But, as with all Gabrielle s men, he proved wanting and, at the end of the war, she moved to Switzerland and might have spent her remaining years in exile. But she was tempted back in 1954 not by a renewed passion for fashion by a desire to destroy her great rival, Christian Dior. She failed in her mission but, by this time approaching her seventies, she relaunched the house of Chanel to a new generation. "Chanel lived at the very centre of an extraordinary professional success," says Charles Roux, "yet she suffered extreme loneliness, having failed in what meant the most to her the life of a woman. What she had, however, was more independence, more freedom than most could ever imagine." Chanel, Her Life, Her World, The Woman Behind The Legend, by Edmonde Charles Roux (Maclehose Press, 14.99), is published on Thursday. Coco Before Chanel is released on 31 July. There is no official UK release date yet for Coco Chanel Igor Stravinsky This website and its associated newspaper adheres to the Press Complaints Commission Code of Practice. If you have a complaint about editorial content which relates to inaccuracy or intrusion, then contact the Editor by clicking here. If you remain dissatisfied with the response provided then you can contact the PCC by clicking here. The Scotsman provides news, events and sport features from the Edinburgh area. For the best up to date information relating to Edinburgh and the surrounding areas visit us at The Scotsman regularly or bookmark this page. Cookies are small data files which are sent to your browser (Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome etc) from a website you visit. They are stored on your electronic device. 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history of fashion charts rise and fall of the 90s supermodel She said: "It was the time of the supermodels but I think they were spoiled. The girls came from nowhere and within a few years were staying in the most expensive hotels, treated to champagne and cocaine. "It s really dangerous and easy to lose reality." The attitude was perfectly illustrated in 1990 when Monlcer Coats Men Mid-Length Doudoune Light Black Linda told Vogue: "We don t wake up for less than $10,000 a day." She was talking about herself and a handful of other "supers" who called the shots. The backlash to this attitude came when the designers, their egos bruised, swept the cover girls away and instead hired waif like teenagers. These very thin models, along with the grungey fashions of the time, earned the look the label of heroin chic. It was a trend that put Kate Moss, with her short, child like body, suddenly in huge demand. While Charlotte was glad to see the supermodels power checked and the focus return to the clothes, there was a downside. She said: "What I didn t like was those anorexic girls. "Supermodels like Christy Turlington, Naomi and Linda Evangelista or Claudia Schiffer, who looked like women, were the image I preferred. "The first time I saw Kate Moss it was at a Versace haute couture show at the Ritz Hotel in Paris. "I was very curious. I thought, Where did this little girl come from? She s petite, a head shorter than all the supermodels. But she s very photogenic. "Her face has something about it that makes her interesting. "Now 20 years on, the original supermodels are coming back. They were spoilt but they were also very professional and photogenic. "Some of the models now work only for a few months or a few shoots and then you forget about them. But the supermodels had personality. "Also, the fashion for those sicklooking kids made us aware that a real woman should be a grown up." Charlotte gave Naomi her big break, booking her for the cover of German Cosmopolitan in 1985, Moncler Bubble Jackets when the London born model was just 15. Charlotte said: "Naomi s agent called and said, Naomi can t believe it. Do you know she is not white? "I said yes, that s the reason why I booked her. They were so astonished because at that Moncler Field Jacket time it wasn t possible to put a black model on the cover. It was a big moment for her and for the magazine." From breaking taboos, Naomi has gone on to become the highest earning black supermodel in history, if also one of the most notorious. During Charlotte s lifetime, fashion as a business has also changed completely. The German said: "It s easier to approach nowadays. In the 50s there were big couturiers, the fashion was extremely expensive and you had to go to Paris.

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