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Thursday, 14 June 2012 06:20

Coco Chanel - the story of a revolution

Even before they had a practical purpose, clothes were meant to have a message. They mark, differentiate, ennoble, humiliate, include and cast out; in other words, they talk about the person wearing them. If there is one statement that definitely applies to fashion, or clothing in general, it is that it has always functioned as a language. Before fashion became fashionable, clothes represented stability: changes appeared slowly and the meanings of clothes where obvious. In the first decades of the century, Coco Chanel violated this familiar language. After throwing away corsets, dressing women like men and making clothes from unusual fabrics it was hard to say who was who.

Her experiments with couture were called a revolution and ranked her on Time magazine's list of the most influential people of the 20th century. A century after her debut in Parisian salons, she remains an icon in the ephemeral world of fashion and beyond it. Only in the last years the legend of the French couturière was revisited several times in cinema ("Coco before Chanel", "Coco Chanel and Igor Stravinsky", "Coco Chanel") - a feast for fashionistas and fashion victims and a rare occasion for fashion historians. The contemporary look at the European legend of fashion presented in these films might be a good opportunity to ask questions about contemporary fashion itself.

Coco wasn't the only provocative designer at that time, she wasn't even the only woman designer. But she was the one to opt for a democratic turn in fashion.

Today, the two C's stand as much for the label as they do for the image of Coco Chanel herself; a self-confident, determined and scandalous personality – an ideal character for cinema. What may seem surprising now is that Coco wasn't the only provocative designer at that time, she wasn't even the only woman designer. But she was the one to opt for a democratic turn in fashion. In times when functionality and comfort did not go along with elegance and the elitist idea of fashion, Chanel tried to create clothes that would be suitable and affordable for all women. Coco turned fashion into a popular entertainment and laid foundations for what was to become the dynamic modern fashion industry.

Published in Cafe Cinema
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