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Coco Chanel

In: People

Submitted By Kmack
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People often ask me, "When did you first become interested in Coco Chanel?" and if I'm honest, I was fascinated long before I started researching her biography more than a decade ago, all the way back to my earliest memories in childhood. For there on top of my mother's dressing table stood a bottle of Chanel No. 5, beyond my reach but not out of sight, and I knew from the moment I began to discern its mysterious letters and number that there was something magical to the black-and-white cipher. I'm not alone in that discovery -- Chanel has come to represent the essence of everywoman, whether in the scent of her perfume or her choice of bold red lipstick or the perfect little black dress -- but the story of Coco feels somehow entwined with my own as a writer.
And so it was that I found myself on a journey, following clues that Chanel had kept hidden in her long life as a couturiere and fashion icon while also trying to make sense of the unhappy end of my marriage, the latter disaster coinciding with my signing a publishing contract. Thereafter, in the process of uncovering the truth about Coco Chanel, I was -- without quite knowing it at the time -- recovering from an unforeseen emotional unraveling. Now, in retrospect, I'm beginning to see that I could not have written my book on Coco Chanel without that personal experience of loss; nor would I have found a way forward for myself without looking back at the example set by Mademoiselle Chanel.
The trail began in Paris at 31 Rue Cambon, the backbone of the House of Chanel, where the famous mirrored staircase leads from the ground-floor entrance to the couture salon on the first floor and then to Mademoiselles private apartment. I'd visited it at the end of the '90s, when I first interviewed Karl Lagerfeld, but upon returning to it -- again and again, in the course of researching Chanel's biography -- I began to...

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