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Realize Beauty – Coco Chanel.

October 26, 2009

I am fascinated by the way that rather than leaving you feeling full and contented, researching a subject leaves you hungry for more. I have just finished the life story of Chanel a book that I bought on a whim on my way down to Melbourne. Being in the beauty industry means that I do walk the line between high fashion, breaking trends and back-stage drama. However, everyday life is still more Bridget Jones than Anna Wintour not least because I like my fashion functional and enviro-savvy, my beauty products minimalistic and understated and my pallet muted. I am also mother of two young girls who like nothing better than to suck my wallet dry. It was with delight that I found out that Chanel and I had a few things in common!

coco chanelChanel was born into a Europe fast approaching a cultural tipping point. Having been born to a peasant family of market traders and brought up in an orphanage in rural France at a time when breading mattered, Chanel was at a distinct disadvantage. However, her fiery independence, sharp intellect and stunning looks (women were still very much objectified in society) opened up the doors that her unfortunate birth should have denied her. Her clear ideas around how a woman should look and function in society gave her an edge that many women saw as a breath of fresh air amongst a sea of Chantilly lace.
So, what is it about Chanel that fits with the “Realize Beauty” mindset?

  • Resilience. Chanel ploughed on in spite of her tough start in life, two world wars, workers strikes, a heart broken many times and a constant feeling of not fitting in.
  • Resourcefulness. Rather like the green movement of today, Chanel was not one to waste precious material or clutter up a design with frivolity. She turned the usual into the spectacular.
  • Thrift. Declaring greed, ugly and ostentatious Chanel could have taught our bankers a thing or two! This way of living and designing is also being revived as part of the green movement. YAY!
  • Vision. Chanel’s vision was clear and unwavering. While some may say that was pig headed, we think it admirable.

Chanel, the woman behind the little black dress, the “off the shelf” look, minimalism, sporty chic (she was the first to use Jersey fabric for everyday wear) and reams of pearls was getting a rather incidental revival, here in Sydney at a shoot for the Stevie English salon today (which I will blog about separately). Grey nail polish and bobbed hair, minimalistic, impactful, and chic but this time done with a tongue in cheek quirkiness befitting the naughties vibe and the salons street punk attitude.
Today the legacy left by Gabriel Chanel lives on under the creative directorship of Karl Lagerfeld. We know that not everyone can wear the Chanel label but the brands philosophy in one way or another has touched us all. Inspirational, yes. Uniquely talented, of course. Happy? No. Chanel achieved her goals of financial and creative freedom but true happiness eluded her. Realize Beauty is all about Feeling Great Being You and sometimes that takes a little more than a string of pearls and a smart suit. So, Iconoclast? Yes. Life coach? No way!

The book is available via Amazon.

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