Noteworthy Read: CHANEL The Couturiere at Work

“Fashion is not something that exists in dresses only; fashion is something in the air. It’s the wind that blows in the new fashion, you feel it coming, you smell it. Fashion is in the sky, in the street, fashion has to do with ideas, the way we live, what is happening.”          – Chanel

Although CHANEL: The Couterier at Work by Amy de la Haye and Shelley Tobin was published over a decade ago, it is still an incredibly rich source in giving a guided tour of Gabrielle Chanel’s tribulations and triumphs as a fashion designer. Unlike other books that focus on Chanel’s tumultuous  private life, this publication highlights her innovations, influences and relentless perseverance in the fashion industry. {In my opinion- the book is worth reading because it leaves out the distracting noise of her personal life and only focuses on the strategically important angles she took in establishing herself as a couturier.}

I recommend this read to anyone who holds an interest in Gabrielle Chanel’s contributions to the fashion world, beginning in the 1910s. The aspect I found most interesting while reading this book is how she used her time period and resources {or lack there of during the world wars} to her advantage to propel her fashion house above others.

“Chanel’s collections were influenced by more humble items of menswear, such as the sailor suit, reefer jacket, beret, mechanics’ dungarees and stonemason’s neckerchifs which she adapted for women and introduced into the luxury world of couture… Her designs were criticized as ‘poverty de luxe,’ or ‘soup kitchen style,’ but she was focused and knew exactly what she wanted, retorting that it was idiotic to confuse simplicity with poverty. she had no doubts about the understated, luxurious elegance of her clothes.”  (42)

An added bonus: The book features full-page, colored, up-close pictures of some of her most noteworthy creations. Photos of her work along with snapshots of her and her influential friends are also on almost every page. The final chapter in the book is brought right up to the year of publication {1994}, and is based on an interview with Chanel’s successor, Karl Lagerfeld.

To get your own copy, any fashion bookstore should have a copy in stock.  If not, the book is available here at


Did you know?

*The name on her birth certificate was misspelt Chasnel.

*Her earliest ambition was to appear on stage, even though her first employment was connected with clothes.

*Her lucky number was 5- hence the name of her first fragrance, Chanel No. 5

*Chanel designed the modernist, pharmaceutical style bottle herself for Chanel No. 5 and this was the first perfume to bear a couturier’s name on the label.

About Alyson

Fashion Blog
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