REBEL, REBEL

THE YOUNG GABRIELLE CHANEL BRUSHED OFF IN­AUS­PI­CIOUS BE­GIN­NINGS TO BUILD AN EM­PIRE. THE HOUSE’S LAT­EST OF­FER­INGS CHAN­NEL HER IN­SPI­RA­TIONAL SPIRIT OF IN­DE­PEN­DENCE.

The Australian - Wish Magazine - - MOTORING - STORY ALICE CA­VANAGH K PHO­TOG­RA­PHY NICK CUBBIN

Be­fore there was Coco Chanel, there was Gabrielle: a spir­ited young woman who spent her child­hood years in ab­ject poverty and her teens or­phaned in a con­vent where she learned sewing and em­broi­dery. De­spite these dis­ad­van­taged be­gin­nings, Gabrielle went on to be­come one of the 20th cen­tury’s great cou­turi­ers and icons: a self-made woman in a world where women were so rarely at the helm. Her legacy pro­vides much in­spi­ra­tional fod­der, even to­day, and feels es­pe­cially ripe in a time when third-wave fem­i­nism is be­ing em­braced by many.

Chanel has an­swered the call, declar­ing 2017 to be the year of “Gabrielle”, of­fer­ing up a slate of new re­leases, in­clud­ing the hip new Gabrielle bag, a new fra­grance Gabrielle Chanel — the mai­son’s first ma­jor fra­grance launch in 15 years — and an el­e­gant line of time­pieces. It’s a per­ti­nent mo­ment to re­turn to both the roots and the driv­ing spirit of the brand and, as far as fe­male role mod­els in the fash­ion busi­ness go, there was per­haps no one as unique as Chanel. For one, her de­sign legacy is hinged on the very idea of moder­nity: she cre­ated a rev­o­lu­tion­ary wardrobe that recog­nised a woman’s need for flu­id­ity, com­fort and style, un­fet­ter­ing them from the con­straints of overly struc­tured or im­prac­ti­cal fash­ions. On a per­sonal note, she also es­chewed the tra­di­tional path of mar­riage and chil­dren, and worked tire­lessly on her em­pire up un­til the day she died, peace­fully at the age of 87. (She was also tena­ciously in­de­pen­dent, and while her suit­ors funded her in the early years, she al­ways paid back her loans.)

This brand of “do it my way” – or in Chanel’s words, “I de­cided who I wanted to be, and that is who I am” — has par­tic­u­lar ca­chet and ap­peal to my gen­er­a­tion of millennials. We are in the throes of the age of in­di­vid­u­al­ism: po­lit­i­cal, so­cial and sex­ual, and the fash­ion world is not im­mune. The launch of Chanel’s Gabrielle bag, a flat-bot­tomed hobo that is both slouchy and ver­sa­tile, her­alded a strong de­par­ture from the brand’s iconic la­dy­like styles. More im­por­tantly (and here’s the hook), the lengthy, dou­ble-han­dle chain al­lows it to be worn in all man­ner of ways ac­cord­ing to your per­son­al­ity, as mod­elled by the mod­ern-day muses in the cam­paign: Kris­ten Ste­wart, Cara Delev­ingne, Caro­line de Mai­gret and Phar­rell Wil­liams.

Out this Septem­ber, the new fra­grance Gabrielle Chanel also offers up a re­flec­tion of our times. An up­date of a tra­di­tional flo­ral scent (flow­ers were totemic for Chanel) the glass fla­con is a sleeker and squarer model of the iconic No. 5, which was re­leased 97 years ago. Mod­ern-day rule-breaker Ste­wart ap­pears again in the cam­paign and the ac­com­pa­ny­ing film, by the award­win­ning Bri­tish di­rec­tor Rin­gan Led­widge, offers a clear de­par­ture from the tropes of fra­grance nar­ra­tives. Un­veiled in late Au­gust, the short sees Ste­wart strug­gling free from a co­coon, break­ing into a run and crash­ing through a wall of glass to ar­rive in a new dawn, bathed in light. Bey­once’s pow­er­ful bal­lad Run­ning is the sound­track. There are no sac­cha­rine al­le­gories, no love in­ter­ests and, per­haps most sur­pris­ing of all, no fash­ion.

With this film, “we want to touch all women, but also each in­di­vid­ual woman, si­mul­ta­ne­ously,” says Thomas du Pré de Saint-Maur, head of global creative re­sources for Chanel’s fra­grance & beauty and fine watches & jew­ellery di­vi­sions. “No one will ex­pe­ri­ence it in the same way; it de­pends on one’s per­cep­tions, lived ex­pe­ri­ences, per­son­al­ity and emo­tions.”

To cre­ate the fra­grance, Chanel nose Olivier Polge had carte blanche, and though Gabrielle wasn’t part of any brief, the name came to him dur­ing the process. While com­pos­ing a simulation of a “bou­quet of white flow­ers”, in­clud­ing or­ange blos­som from Tu­nisia, ylangy­lang from Co­moros in East Africa, jas­mine from Egypt and tuberose from Grasse, he ar­rived at his muse. “It seems to me a rebel at heart would have a strong and de­ter­mined per­son­al­ity, some­thing I’ve al­ways as­so­ci­ated with white flow­ers.” For the house of Chanel, that rebel will al­ways be Gabrielle Chanel.

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