The Improbable Return of Coco Chanel by Richard Parker

I received an advanced copy of this book via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

imagesThe Improbable Return of Coco Chanel is a non-fiction novel written by Richard Parker, who was Coco Chanel’s assistant during the time when she opened a new showroom for Chanel Perfumes in New York.  At the time Coco was 71 years old and returning to the fashion industry after a 13 year “retirement” in Switzerland.  After being absent from the industry for so long, Coco needed to almost re-establish herself.  In this story, Richard tells of the challenges they encountered during the development of the showrooms and also let us in on working with Mademoiselle herself.   According to him, Mademoiselle was a pleasure to work with. She treated him with dignity and respect, but  never did they become too familiar. Their working relationship was strictly professional. He described her as a “reputed martinet and a most finicky perfectionist” and that she knew what she wanted, at all times (“Her decisions were not discussible”)

For those who know me on a more personal level (my friends), know that I’m a huge admirer of Coco Chanel’s legacy.  She is one of the very few women that I found inspirational.  Not only was she named the world’s most elegant woman, but she was revolutionary in what she did. This woman, who brought us faux pearls, Chanel N°5 and the little black dress.  At a time when the fashion industry designed clothes for women that were highly uncomfortable (corsets, boning, etc), Coco was the one who came out with comfortable clothes.  She believes that if fashion isn’t worn by women, then it’s not fashion and also that style is a constant thing.  I think that is what I admire most about her, is that her fashion and her clothes never go out of style. She created classic pieces of clothing that up until today is still in style. I am all for simplicity and comfort. I rarely follow fashion and I buy clothes that I wear for years. Maybe I am perceived as old fashioned for not following trends, but I think I just don’t care. Like her I believe in having style rather than being fashionable.

He also let’s us in on some facts about her life that he learned from working with her and his colleagues.  I found the parts about her love life particularly interesting. She had everything, but she never found everlasting love, which makes me feel a bit sad for her. One of her most epic love stories, was of her and Boy Chapel, as we all know.  Did you know that she designed the little black dress (LBD) after the death of Boy? It was created in memory of him, to ensure that the world mourned with her. Richard says “The power of this legend and the dress created by it, is so strong that eighty-seven years later, women everywhere grieve with Coco Chanel”

This book is only 126 pages, so it is not a biography. If you would like to know just a little bit more about Coco then this is sure a good read. He tells us a bit about her that is not in historical records: her personality and how it was to work for her. I enjoyed this quick read, however I was also a bit irritated with the fact that there were a few facts in this book that were wrong. Usually in the ARC’s it would say it’s an advanced copy and this one didn’t, so I assume this is the final book.  He mentions in the book that Chanel N°5 was created in 1924. This is WRONG!! It was created in 1921. There is so much information about this on the internet, even books written about it, that I find it unacceptable that you can get a fact like that wrong. Yes, she signed a deal with Wertheimer in 1924 for the production of the fragrance, but it was created by her and Ernest Beaux in 1920 and went on sale in 1921. Get your facts right. Also, apparently he doesn’t know how to spell her successor’s surname. It’s “Lagerfeld” not Langerfeld.  The book was dedicated to “Cocophiles” – I like that word, but you are sure to get criticism if you write a book with incorrect facts to people who admire Coco Chanel and her work.

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