Monday, July 27, 2009
I've just read the latest book on Chanel: Coco Chanel Summer 62. What a beautifully crafted and intimate portrait of the designer at the height of her powers. It's a very moving journal of sorts of a day in the life of the Couturier.
The shock of it is the joy and seriousness of the woman. We all know about her sharper edges . The steely determination, the tough broad exterior/interior, but have rarely been given the opportunity to see the person capable of obvious generosity of spirit and just plain joy. This
beautiful chronicle of the finishing touches to a spring collection complete with images of fitting , cheer leading , moments of contemplation are all shot by Douglas Kirkland.
He manages to take his camera and penetrate the veil that surrounds her. The warmth and love of her craft, her intimacy with the models of her Cabine are all crystallized in these images. It makes one want to be a fly on the wall just to witness magic in the making. I've often wanted to see our own Jackie Rogers, a fabulous designer in her own right, in the early stage of her experience in fashion. So many times I've listened to Jackie talk about the old days with Chanel, but have never seen pictures from this fabled time. Douglas has caught Jackie in this book on several occasions before this beautiful defile. Jackie sparkles. Impossibly chic along with others and with such allure. I was incredibly touched to have a window from a time long passed to see her in her youthful glory.
This book is a love letter to a woman who swam against a changing tide like an Olympian. Nine more years would pass and she would no longer be the arbiter of a style whose time had ended. The onslaught of the new guard would emerge and take away the focus and change the worlds eyes forever. The legacy that she left is in its fullest most vibrant glory in this book. I loved every page,every expression and learned just from looking what makes a great designer. The rigor and unwavering commitment she shows for what she sees as correct is splashed through each and every image. Yes, it's a world that no longer exists. You see Baron and Baroness de Rothschild with a sleek young Lee Radziwill in the audience and others who played major roles in high culture then. The appreciation and understanding of what constitutes the art of fashion is so palpable.
There is a lesson in this. I think the lesson is a commitment to giving every ounce of one's soul to making clothes the best they can be. Fit, proportion and artistry can never be traded for sleight of hand. We all must remember that when designing any collection. The times may be different as is the playing field, but the game remains very much the same.
photo by Douglas Kirkland