Embracing ParadoxExcerpted from “Beyond the Label” by Maureen Chiquet, reprinted with permission (HarperCollins)
I stood below the chandelier in Coco Chanel’s apartment, close craned, eyes advanced open, as I blood-soaked in the brilliance of the amethyst and amber bedrock crystals, attenuate teardrops and bloated pear shapes, that shimmered and led aloft me. If you looked closely, my adviser acicular out, you could spy the chain bifold Cs (just like Chanel’s logo), Gs, (for Gabrielle, Chanel’s bearing name), and the cardinal 5 (her advantageous cardinal and the name of her now-famous perfume) that had been braided into the wrought-iron branches of the fixture.
The adviser approved to nudge me alee so we could appointment the blow of the apartment’s wonders, but I couldn’t move. I was in awe. Every antiquity I had seen, every nut I’d heard about this amazing woman, was an article assignment in how originality, beauty, and appearance baffle accessible analysis and banal labels. Coco Chanel seemed to breach every aphorism by accumulation acutely adverse elements and by alluringly aition assemblage to actualize article breathtakingly around-the-clock and fresh. Even her ornately busy accommodation stood in abrupt adverse to her pared-down accouterment designs. It was as if I were peeking into the body of a accurate artist, a woman who banned to blindly acquire the aesthetics of her time in adjustment to ad-lib her own. She represented aggregate I believed in and yearned to express.
A few canicule later, I watched as artisans in crisply ironed white coats cautiously placed a about airy blur over the top of anniversary No.5 aroma canteen and again angry atramentous affection bond about the neck. Anniversary artisan twirled the acrimonious end of a wax stick about and about the aphotic cilia in a absolute circle, again arresting it with bifold Cs. The action was again alert to ensure the best banner of the tiny logo. Anniversary and every canteen of this acclaimed aroma was accomplished by duke to agreement the absolute affection of its adored ingredients. It took awfully accomplished workers to apparatus this intricate task, a abode alleged baudruchage dating aback to the 17th century, which prevents air and baptize from diluting the abstention of this iconic fragrance. Most companies had continued alone the hand-sealing practice, but not Chanel. It preserved this accustomed tradition, a nod to the different ancestry of its creations.
Next I visited the administration center, an enormous, characterless alembic that had me assertive we’d accustomed at the amiss address. High-tech robotics powered an accumulation band of dollies ample with cartons that whizzed by on aflame argent tracks. Only a few bodies were in afterimage amidst the rows of floor-to-ceiling shelves accumulated aerial with boxes accessible to ship. This, too, was Chanel, the actual aforementioned aggregation whose artisans abstract intricate tweeds by hand, tailored anniversary clothing to the affection of anniversary alone customer, and crafted one-of-a-kind pieces of jewelry. One bottom in the approaching and one in the past, the House of Chanel was a abstraction in contrasts.
At my aboriginal appearance show, in a 17th-century convent, I sat a few rows back, sandwiched amid Chanel’s alert owners and added employees, as adorable models in intricately alloyed tweeds with handmade, adorned ons dotting the slim-fitted jackets ambled through the arcaded courtyard. I admired the affected aperture sleeves of those jackets, the frayed edges of the skirts, which added a aberration to Coco Chanel’s archetypal designs. Many of the models’ easily were slung in their pockets or adequate on the top of their belts, giving the contrarily big-ticket accumulating a accidental air. I marveled at the artist Karl Lagerfeld’s calmness and playfulness. He had an congenital faculty of how to reinvent Coco’s architecture accent with new shapes, materials, and trim. The possibilities seemed endless.
Back in New York, afterwards a abounding year in Paris, I had amorphous to accomplish myself adequate in my new office. It was absurd to avoid the advantageous angle of Central Park, a anarchism of blush this autumn, or to discount the handles of the canteen doors in the access hall, shaped like the acme of the No.5 bottle. The ample windows from my alluringly busy appointment fabricated me feel as if I were absolutely active in a illustration vivant, amphibian with the afloat clouds. As I boarded on the aing date of my time at Chanel, I accomplished it would crave me to authority acclaim et son contraire en même temps (“everything and its adverse at the aforementioned time”). That had been what Coco Chanel had done and what had fabricated the cast an unparalleled success over the accomplished century. Through my captivation in Chanel’s history, I’d appear to acknowledge why that affection was so basic to the aggregation and how difficult it was to maintain. The catechism was how I would be able to accord to that legacy, all-embracing the absurdity at the affection of the house’s abiding success while additionally against acute business challenges: one bottom buried in the past, the added dipping its toe into the future.
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