A review of ‘Eternal Chanel’ by Jean Leymarie

by Katie on November 16, 2010

I have always been more of a Schiaperelli girl.  Preferring the flamboyancy, the wildness and the idiosyncratic style she foisted on the Art Deco period and of the Surrealist movement that influenced her.  Elsa’s legacy lives long into fashion today as she’s undoubtedly influenced countless designers (who I wear) including Galliano, McQueen, Gaultier and Yves Saint Laurent.


Where Elsa Schiaperelli was outrageous and flamboyantly original as befit her enormous personality, her greatest rival, Gabrielle (‘Coco’) Chanel was much more minimalist and conservative.  Despite this fact, the two women moved in the same high art, high ideal social circles such as Jean Cocteau, Marcel Duchamp, Igor Stravinsky and Eric Satie.  But it is Chanel, her distinctive monochrome style, subdued individualism and her great business empire that remains today while Schiaperelli is resigned to fashion history and museum pieces (more’s the pity).
For fashion historians and Chanel groupies, the ultimate Chanel book, Jean Leymarie’s classic monograph on Coco Chanel is back in print once more.  Completely revised and updated since its publication in 1989, this book provides a general overview of Chanel’s creative history from her very early days to the development of her legacy after her death by Karl Lagerfeld. 

The book is chock full of beautiful imagery, the influences that abounded in Chanel’s life and how she influenced others (famously the Duke of Westminster was enamoured and encapsulated so much  by Coco Chanel that he had her double CC initials engraved into every lamp-post in Westminster – a fact that can still be seen today), the development of brand Chanel is outlined though Chanel’s life in the 258 informative pages.


The reader trips over simply gorgeous Cecil Beaton, Roger Schall and Horst photography amidst snippets of information and pithy quotes from The Lady herself on fashion, society, art and attitudes.  As monochrome as Chanel’s influences and early designs, Leymarie’s book evokes the personality of the designer as it gently enthralls the reader.

This book is an exceptional addition to any fashion library and should be sought out.  Fashion students and aficionados take note.

Jean Leymarie’s ‘Eternal Chanel’ is published by Thames & Hudson and is available in hardback at £29.95.

Jean Leymarie (1919-2006) was Director of the Musee National d’Art Moderne in Paris from 1968-1973 and Director of the French Academy in Rome from 1977-1984.

A fan of Chanel?  Please leave a comment in the box below.

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Penny Dreadful November 16, 2010 at 11:03 am

Oh excellent, I will add this to my list immediately. I’m with you though, when is Schiaparelli going to be resurrected along with Vionnet and House of Worth? Now that would be something!

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Katie Chutzpah November 16, 2010 at 11:53 am

Penny, Vionnet’s already been resurrected and to great acclaim. Rodolfo Paglialunga is the designer. Check out http://www.style.com over the past couple of seasons: http://www.style.com/fashionshows/review/S2011RTW-VIONNET

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