Joana Bonet
Joana Bonet
Joana Bonet
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Lecture SeriesCoco Chanel. The Spiral Staircase

  • Date: 4/03/2014
  • Presenter:
    • Lucía Franco

A spiral stair ("snail stair" in Spanish) is a metaphor that could summarize the life of Coco Chanel: her social and cultural ascension, her relationship with success and fame, but at the same time her loneliness, her ups and downs in love, and her armor of protection against the world. On one side, it is an objective fact that the stairs were important in her life, as it was her preferred location to observe the models in her house of couture in Rue Cambon 21, and emblematic and very photographed site where she normally appeared either at the head of the stairs or in the steps, giving the the finishing touches to the dresses exhibited.

Orphan at 12 years of age, she spent some years in an orphanage. She was clerk of a haberdashery, waitress, and even chorister... Very requested by the officials, she fell in love with one of them, a horseman coming from a good family, thanks to whom she begins to work as a hatter in Paris. There she will meet Arthur Capel -probably the most influential man in her life- who encourages her to open a fashion house: In 1910, with 27 years of age, she gets installed in Rue Cambon 21, and two years later her fame will finally explode in Deauville.

She was a revolutionist of image. Empowers women with her liberation. In the framework of fashion and traditions, she is the ultimate creator of the 19th century. Her life is full of lights -and a few shades-, full of master pieces and geniality.

She befriended with Misia i José María Sert, Picasso, Cocteau, Diaghilev, Stravinsky, Pierre Reverdy, the Duke of Westminster… Coco Chanel is a creative and cumulative symbol of the decade of the 1920's, a spearhead of the avant-garde who collaborated with all the great artists of her time.

In the 1930's she began to design for Hollywood: Marlene Dietrich, Greta Garbo, Gloria Swanson… Colette will write her biography. Chanel travels with Visconti, houses Dalí, and works with Renoir. Upon the beginning of war in Europe, she closes her fashion house and becomes suspect of collaborationism due to her friendship with a German officer. Later, in the 1950's she will reappear in the world of haute couture and triumph.

A woman who built herself, she always fought in the same circumstances as men, and became the queen of aphorism: "A woman who doesn't wear perfume has no future". She ended up having over 3500 employees.

Coco Chanel was a conceptual dressmaker; she surrounded herself with intellectuals and aristocrats, democratized fashion, and managed to have women from different social classes wear her dresses. Controversial, demanding, complicated, with complex love relationships. Her temperament and disposition left a legacy that still nowadays is valid and continues to set trends.

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