Art & Culture

Gabrielle Chanel and literature

Coco Chanel loved the written word. A new short film from the "Inside Chanel" series now gives an insight into her special relationship with literature.
Reading time 2 minutes
31 Rue Cambon; territory of Gabrielle Chanel in the middle of Paris

For the icon, literature has always been much more than just entertainment. Rather, an inner necessity that originated in childhood and enabled her to escape the pain of her mother's untimely death and her father's absence. Gabrielle Chanel continued dreaming as she read, fantasizing about the youth she was robbed of and fling from reality.

The catalogs, books, and serialized novels she collected formed a school of life. An upbringing that she offered herself as an autodidact and that would soon help determine her character, her temperament and her relationship with others and the world.

Reading gave structure to her thoughts and soon became one of the foundations of her personality. Gabrielle Chanel would soon share this idea with the man in her life. Her supposedly great love, Boy Capel, introduced her to literary fields and the great philosophical and sacred texts. It was he who encouraged her to read the greatest myths in human history, the appeal of which continues to this day. In addition to fictional works, Coco Chanel stimulated her mind and imagination through poetry and was inspired by the beauty of words for her own existence. These included Paul Éluard, Charles Baudelaire and Guillaume Appollinaire.


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He was Coco Chanel's great love: the English polo player Arthur "Boy" Capel

In addition to fashion, her book collection was a source of inspiration for “Coco” Chanel, with which the designer continued her education and went mentally into unknown worlds. Within a few years she had become an accomplished and daily practitioner of the "travel without travel" that reading provided. In books she discovered worlds such as Asia, Persia and Egypt, whose art shaped her creations.

Interestingly, however, Chanel refused to write a biography of its own, preferring instead to produce shorter maxims like lessons in style and elegance. When it came time to write her life story, she confided this to some of her dearest writer friends.

Since her death, more than 150 works, biographies and art books, which have been translated into all languages, have been dedicated to her.

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The story of an icon

The latest chapter from Inside Chanel is about this special connection. The French fashion house has launched a series of short films that provide deeper insights into the work and philosophy of Chanel and its famous founder. The latest part of “Inside Chanel” goes into the meaning of books for Gabrielle Chanel.


"Inside Chanel" Gabrielle Chanel and literature

Photos and video: CHANEL

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