People often ask me, ‘when did you start writing your book about Chanel?’ – and the true answer is over a decade ago, when I first met Karl Lagerfeld. I was interviewing him for a magazine profile at the time, but we ended up talking about the ghosts of the past, as well as the fashion of the future; and one of the intangible presences in the room was Coco Chanel herself. Her portrait still hangs above Lagerfeld’s desk in the Design Studio, her apartment remains preserved on the second floor, hidden behind the mirrored walls; and late at night, when rue Cambon is almost silent, you feel that if you were to turn round swiftly enough, you might just catch a glimpse of Mademoiselle Chanel herself.
Once I had passed through those looking glass doors, into the extraordinary world on the other side of the mirrors, I knew that I wanted to discover more. Lagerfeld proved to be a wise guide in the maze that surrounded the legend of Coco Chanel, as did her close friend, Claude Delay, and her great-niece, Gabrielle Labrunie. I was also lucky enough to discover several private archives in England and Scotland that contained previously unseen photographs of Chanel, and a number of letters and diaries that gave surprising new insights into her life. In my search for the truth about this most elusive of women, I travelled from the abbey at Aubazine that contained clues to her childhood, to the remote Scottish Highlands where she had fished with the Duke of Westminster and Winston Churchill.
When my book was finished – not that you can ever really come to a final conclusion with Chanel – there was yet another surprise to come. Monsieur Lagerfeld produced a treasure trove: a series of beautiful illustrations illuminating the enigma that is Coco Chanel, which became the starting point for this wonderful new edition of the book…
France, March 24th, 2011
Germany, end of April 2011
UK and USA, September 2011