Tag Archives: Coco Chanel

Festive Noir

Chanel Rouge Noir model shotThis year’s Christmas collection from Chanel is as glamorous as ever but it has a dark twist. The Rouge Noir Absolument collection has been inspired by the classic, vampy Rouge Noir nail varnish, which celebrated its 20th birthday recently and was one of the biggest beauty stories of its era. I remember vividly writing a story for The Herald about it when news broke that this dinky little bottle of inky, blackish-red polish had a waiting list in the UK. I only got my hands on mine because I went on a press trip to Copenhagen where there were still a few bottles left!

Rouge Noir was originally inspired by a colour mentioned as a favourite of Coco Chanel in a 1926 magazine article, and this new collection puts the deep Chanel Rouge Noir Signe Particuliergarnet shade centre stage, with a number of roses, pinks and golds in supporting roles so you can release the inner vamp or temper her with softer, prettier shades. Highlights of the collection include the Signé Particulier Exclusive Creation (£44), an eyeshadow quartet which revolves around the matte Rouge Noir shade; a beautiful highlighting powder, Joues Contraste Lumiere 12 Coups de Minuit (£31), in a pearlised rose-gold shade, and of course the gorgeous new trio of nail varnishes  (£18 each) – the original Rouge Noir shade, plus brand new Le Top Coat Lamé Rouge Noir, a transparent top coat with gold flecks, and the delicate Rose Fusion shade.

I popped along to the Chanel counter in Fraser, in Glasgow, last week for a Rouge Noir makeover (scroll down to see my pix from the day). Late morning is probably not the best time of day to go noir, but it was worth doing as my make-up artist, Megan, gave me some great idea about how to wear the Rouge Noir collection. I particularly loved the eye palette, which was enhanced by the new Rouge Noir shades of the Ombre d’Illusion cream eye colour (£25 ) and Le Volume Mascara (£25).

  • For stockists call 020 7493 3836Chanel Rouge Noir nails

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A Story Goes With Them: Les Exclusifs de Chanel

Chanel Les Exclusifs extraitsOne of the biggest thrills of my career as a beauty journalist was being invited to Paris to meet Chanel’s fragrance creator, Jacques Polge, back in 2006. I met him twice that year – once at his lab in Neuilly where he introduced me to the latest Chanel fragrance, Allure Sensuelle, and then a few months later when the subject for discussion was a new collection of fragrances, Les Exclusifs de Chanel, which were a sort of olfactory evocation of Coco Chanel’s colourful life and inspiring tastes.

Not only was I granted a leisurely interview with Polge, who has created every new Chanel fragrance since 1978 and is the custodian of its fragrance heritage,  but we had our chat in the apartment which is essentially the epicentre of the Chanel universe – Coco Chanel’s private quarters above her original Paris boutique at 31 rue Cambon.

Chanel 1932 Jacques Polge with brooch

Jacques Polge, the creator of Chanel fragrances, in the fine jewellery boutique at 18 place Vendome

Sitting on Coco Chanel’s sand-coloured settee, surrounded by her personal possessions which have all been left as they were when the great couturiere died in 1971, I heard all about the about-to-be-launched Les Exclusifs collection; ten fragrances which drew inspiration from every aspect of the legendary designer’s life – including many items and motifs which were in evidence in front of me, in her apartment.

Four of the fragrances had made their debut in the early years of Chanel’s career, and had been revived by Polge for this collection, while the other six – among them my personal favourite, 31 rue Cambon, a complex, elegant yet sensual, chypre – had been specially  created, and were the result of Polge immersing himself in “Mademoiselle’s” personal effects and biography.

Les Exclusifs were launched in 2007. Since 2009, Polge has added a further three fragrances to the collection: Beige (2009), Jersey (2011) and 1932 (2012). The inspiration for Beige, a  warm, honey-floral equivalent of one of the couturiere’s signature colours, and Jersey, Polge’s reimagining (and rehabilitation) of lavender in tribute to the fabric which symbolises Chanel’s modernity and revolutionary spirit, is obvious to anyone who is familiar with the Chanel story and the history of fashion, but the background to 1932 is maybe not as self-evident.

Chanel 1932 necklace

“Comete” necklace from Chanel’s 1932 Bijoux de Diamants collection, photographed by Robert Bresson

It was in 1932 that Coco Chanel presented her first collection of fine jewellery, and Polge took inspiration from the Comete necklace and brooch which she designed for that initial collection to create a sparkling white fragrance structured around the most star-studded flower in perfumery – jasmine.

Les Exclusifs – to which customers can be introduced by an expert at one of the handful of Chanel olfactive bars around the country – are only available in Chanel boutiques and Espaces Parfums, and were launched without any fanfare because, as Polge explained to me back in 2007, they were only going to be available to buy in places where they could be presented properly; where their stories could be told and where their presentation could be appreciated and admired. Their launch was a reaction against what he called “the banalisation” of fragrance, particularly the way perfumes were being routinely sold in supermarkets and often being chosen solely on the basis of their packaging and ad campaigns.

Now, in 2014, as Polge prepares to hand over the reins of the Chanel fragrance empire to his son (his retirement was announced last year, but no date given), he has introduced pure perfume variations of Beige, Jersey and 1932 to the collection – Les Exclusifs de Chanel Extraits – and these have slightly different accents to their parent scents; they are, in fact, new interpretations of them.

I’m just keeping my fingers crossed that Monsieur Polge produces an extrait of 31 rue Cambon before he starts drawing his perfumeur’s pension …

* Les Exclusifs de Chanel Extraits (£155 each) are available exclusively in Chanel at Covent Garden, Chanel Boutiques, Frasers in Glasgow, Fenwicks in Newcastle, Selfridges in Manchester and Selfridges W1. For further stockist information, call 0207-493 3836.

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Les Beiges for Beginners

LES_BEIGES_2013_PRESS_RELEASE_04When is beige not boring? When it’s Chanel beige, cherie.  I should know: I spent the morning being educated in the the ethos behind Les Beiges Healthy Glow Sheer Powder, the latest addition to the Chanel make-up range.

The brainchild of Peter Philips, the Creative Director of Chanel Make-up,  whose tenure has so far produced such instant beauty classics as Rouge Coco Shine, Illusion d’Ombre and Rouge Allure Velvet, Les Beiges Healthy Glow Sheer Powder was directly inspired – as so much within Chanel Beauty is – by Coco Chanel herself.

The legendary designer revolutionised fashion by liberating the female body from constrictive clothes, allowing it to move freely and be exposed to the sunlight. She was one of the first women to embrace a healthy, sun-kissed glow as a beauty ideal – porcelain skin had previously been the desired look – and photographs from the 1920s show Chanel on the beaches of Deauville, Biarritz and Cannes bare-faced and glowing with a subtle radiance.

Peter Philips credits Coco Chanel’s “emancipation” of the body as the inspiration behind his vision of “a free and liberating make-up; make-up that frees make-up in one novel beauty step” – and provides “an outdoor, radiant complexion”.

The idea of Les Beiges is to enhance the complexion and help women to achieve the healthiest, most glowing version of their skin. The new powder – claims Chanel – puts an end to dull complexions. Indeed, they go so far as to declare it as  “a manifesto for a healthy glow”.

If the powder wasn’t so lovely and effective (and don’t get me started on the chic-beyond-belief packaging), the natural piss-taker in me would have to do something with all the pseudo political spiel set out in the press dossier – but one can’t help but be charmed by Philips and his passion for what he does. Especially when he keeps giving us girls such fabulous new products to play with.

Les Beiges Healthy Glow Sheer Powder is ideal for those of us who aren’t into bronzing powder, but would like just a little boost for pale or lacklustre skin. Philips says: “I wanted a refined, visible yet discreet result. I had to avoid the trap of excessive pearly effects and flamboyant tans to achieve this healthy glow. I worked with the Chanel Laboratories for months to compose the perfect range of beige shades.” And while it’s working its magic on the appearance of the complexion, the powder is also looking after the skin – since it provides protection against sun MA2012_24_0032editeddamage, pollution, dehydration and environmental stress.

There are  seven shades in the range – and how you choose your shade depends very much on what you’re wanting from the powder. Lucinda Paterson-Brown, one of Chanel’s top UK-based make-up artists, talked me through it. No10, the lightest shade, was the one she chose for me as a base – applied with a kabuki brush, it is, she says, a terrific foundation. “For a soft, natural  glow,” she adds, “you could use No20. And if you were wanting a powder to use as a gentle bronzer, across the cheeks and temple, No30 would be ideal.”

Very much created with the needs of the modern Chanel woman in mind, the powder comes with a half-moon shaped brush designed to follow the curves of the face. “You have to be able to apply your make-up without thinking about it,” explains Peter Philips. “And even though the case contains a wide-angle mirror, you can sweep on some Beige with your eyes closed. I guarantee that the result will be perfectly natural.”

* Chanel Les Beiges Healthy Glow Sheer Powder SPF15 (£38) and retractable kabuki brush (£33) are available now.

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Coco’s Last Head-turner

The bottle is iconic. Square with slightly curved shoulders, it is the embodiment of elegance and simplicity. The label is unfussy, with the perfume’s name laid out in black type. The lid sits raised off the shoulders – a glass rectangle resting on a neck around which, like a bow tie, is a band with the most coveted logo in the world in the centre: the two interlocking C’s. This could be a description of the world’s most famous perfume bottle, that of Chanel No.5, but it’s also a description of the bottle of one of the world’s most cultish fragrances – Chanel No.19.

Everyone knows Chanel No.5. It was the first fragrance launched by Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel, back in 1921 – and it became famous the world over as her signature perfume. Most people don’t know Chanel No.19, however. It was the last fragrance she created, and probably the last one she wore. Launched 40 years ago – half a century after No.5 – No.19 is about to become a whole lot better known now, thanks to the creation of No.19 Poudre (Powdered), a new and softer variation on its fresh, green, floral theme.

With Coco Chanel still a source of fascination as well as inspiration 40 years after her death, it’s surprising that her final fragrance – the last Chanel perfume made with her involvement, the last perfume she loved and the perfume which sums up the second half  of her career (complementing No.5 as the fragrance of the first half) – is still a such cultish phenomenon.

Like many of the great classical perfumes, it makes a statement. It’s not a fragrance that everyone “gets” or can pull off – and it’s certainly not the easiest fragrance to love, unless you have a fairly sophisticated palette. In the acclaimed book Perfume – The Guide, Tania Sanchez describes it as a “cruel” fragrance, “angular, unkind, tough and cold”, adding that: “For a fragrance with so many spring-time references, all white blossoms and leafy greenery, No.19 never lands you in any Sound of Music meadows. It keeps you in the boardroom, in three-inch stilettos and a pencil-skirt suit.”

Apart from the three-inch stilettos, the description could easily apply to Mademoiselle Chanel herself – in the two decades running up to the launch of No.19. Or, at least, the public’s perception of her. She certainly appeared to be a tough old bird, quite ruthless – and arguably cruel – in her brutally expressed opinions, and physically she was wiry and angular. She’s immediately recognisable in the minimalist sketches drawn by Karl Lagerfeld for Justine Picardie’s recent biography: you only need to draw the jawline, the cheek bones, the sharp elbows at 45 degrees to her body – and the Chanel form is identifiable.

So how did No.19 come about? Well, the story of No.19 is interwoven with the story of Coco Chanel’s miraculous comeback in the last 17 years of her life. She had quit Paris during the Occupation, her reputation damaged by her affair with a Nazi officer, and had taken up a sort of self-imposed exile in Switzerland. Her 1954 comeback collection was her first since she shut up her couture shop in 1939. What triggered her comeback was her rage at the New Look that was sweeping Paris and beyond: Christian Dior’s landmark 1947 collection, with its new silhouette of the tight bodice, nipped-in waist and full skirt, was the antithesis of the aesthetic with which Chanel had revolutionised fashion a quarter of a century earlier. She had done away with the restrictive corsets and given women the freedom of movement thanks to her loose-fitting, comfortable clothes. She was incensed by the New Look – and, especially, by the fact that a man had dared to put women back in corsets, that a man was undoing what she had done for women.

Opening with a navy blue and white collarless jersey suit, Chanel’s 1954 collection harked back to her 1920s successes – fluid lines, comfortable fabrics, and all modelled by girls with the gamine figures that had been in vogue in the days when flappers flattened their breasts, and hid their hips and waists. The French and British press hated it, dismissing it as backwards-looking, a pathetic attempt by an old lady (Chanel was by now 71) to relive her earlier successes. Le Combat newspaper said: “From the first dress, we knew that the Chanel style belonged the past.” The Daily Express labelled the collection “a fiasco”.

Support came from an unlikely source: the United States. The Americans loved the collection. Vogue and Life magazine both ran big features on Chanel and her comeback, with no mention of the war or her personal errors of judgement. Orders flooded in from across the Atlantic from women who appreciated what Life called “evening dresses that have plenty of elegant dash, and easy-fitting suits that are refreshing after the ‘poured-on’ look of some styles.”

It took five years for the French to cotton on to what the Americans appreciated about the born-again Chanel style. And in the interim, Chanel had devised all the elements of what remains the quintessential Chanel look – to the collarless tweed jacket she added the quilted, chain-strapped bag (the “2.55”, launched in February 1955) and the two-tone slingback pumps (1957).

Finally, in 1959, French Vogue proclaimed: “The heady idea that a woman should be more important than her clothes, and that it takes superb design to keep her looking that way – this idea, which has been for almost 40 years the fuel for the Chanel engine, has now permeated the fashion world.”

Riding on a cloud of success again, Coco Chanel – although she no longer owned shares in Parfums Chanel, but did receive 2% royalties on perfume sales – wanted to launch a new perfume to accompany this new chapter in her career and celebrate her triumphant return. The women’s perfumes in the Chanel portfolio had all been created during her initial run of success: Chanel No.5, launched in 1921, had been followed by No.22 (1922), Cuir de Russie (1924), Gardenia (1925), Bois des Iles (1926) and Sycomore (1930) – all of which were recently relaunched as part of Les Exclusifs collection – then Une Idee, Le 1940 Bleu, Le 1940 Rouge and Le 1940 Beige (all 1930) and Ivoire (1931).

Chanel now wanted a perfume to reflect her new success in the second half of the 20th century. Throughout the early 1960s, she nagged Parfums Chanel about it but – according to Michael Edwards’s book Perfume Legends, the fragrance company wasn’t keen – and nor were the distributors. Edwards quotes Chanel’s legal advisor, Robert Chaillet, who said: “They feared it might torpedo No.5.” Chanel persisted with her request for a new perfume and as time went by, the request became a demand. Finally, in 1965, when Pierre Wertheimer – one of the owners of Parfums Chanel – died, Chanel got her way and began work on what would become No.19.

Coco Chanel was involved in every step of the evolution of No.19, which was created by the revered “nose” Henri Robert. Chaillet later said: “Every week for over a year I brought her three different perfume bottles marked one, two, three. She sprayed herself with them from head to toe and then wandered around the fashion house waiting for reactions. If the salesgirls said: ‘Oh! Mademoiselle smells good!’ she was delighted. If nothing was said to her she would telephone me, furious. ‘This perfume is awful. I don’t want any. It stinks! Nobody noticed it!’ ”

Determined that the new perfume be a head-turner, Chanel settled on a daring formula which, says the internationally renowned perfume expert Roja Dove, “revolutionised” perfume. He says: “The thing that  made it such a revolution in its time was the overdose of orris [the root of the iris plant], which is the main classic powder note of perfumery, nestling in the base. You only notice it once the scent dries down.”

Both Dove and Jacques Polge, Chanel’s current “nose” and the guardian of all the Chanel fragrances, agree that No.19 is truly a connoisseur’s perfume. Polge explains: “In the industry, it’s always been very highly regarded – I don’t know of any nose who doesn’t rate 19 –  and those women who are faithful to No.19 usually come from a culture of perfume.”

Dove adds: “The so-called green note of perfumery – which is generally based around galbanum – is a polarising material. People either love it or really can’t stand it. And if you look at all the great classical perfumes that use it – perfumes like Miss Dior, or Guerlain Vol de Nuit, they are scents that you really love or you just can’t stand. What’s interesting is that No.19 has two hugely polarising materials – it has the note of galbanum, that so-called fresh note, and then underneath it, it has orris, the powder note.

“In my opinion, the powder note generally suggests somebody who is a little retrospective in their view on life; the so-called green note generally appeals to people who are forward thinking. So maybe the rather beautiful schizophrenia of this perfectly formed creation makes it polarising and therefore if you love it, nothing else will quite do, because nothing gives you this sort of duality – I can’t think of another scent that exists which combines freshness on a powdered note in that way.”

Certainly the simultaneously backward and forward-looking description seems to fit Coco Chanel. She always drew – whether subconsciously or not – on her past for inspiration. The distinctive chains of her bags were inspired, it is said, by the belts worn by the nuns who had educated her, for example. Yet she invariably moved fashion and fragrance forward with her bold choices.

With No.19 (so named after the date of her birth – August 19), she was soon vindicated in her choice. Jacques Polge cites the story of how, just a few months before her death, the 87-year-old
Coco Chanel was wearing the fragrance when she was stopped in the street by a young man. As she told it: “Coming out of the Ritz, I suddenly felt a hand on my shoulder and I turned around to see an unknown face. I was just about to tell him off in no uncertain terms, when he said to me, with an American accent: ‘Excuse me, I am with two friends who want to know the name of your perfume.’ To be stopped in the street by a man at my age, that’s not bad, is it?”

Whether Chanel switched completely from No.5 to No.19 as her signature perfume during her final days nobody knows for sure, but Roja Dove says: “I wouldn’t be surprised –  I’m sure that any woman who received a compliment from a handsome man might end up having a proclivity towards the liquid that brought that comment her way!”

Chanel No.19 quickly established a loyal following, but never – Dove points out – became “a blockbuster” like No.5. Its influence is evident in various highly successful fragrances, including Estee Lauder’s Beautiful, Cartier’s So Pretty and, most recently, Prada’s Infusion d’Iris. And it was partly to “reclaim Chanel’s territory” as the perfume company which constructed the original iris masterpiece, says Jacques Polge, that he decided to create the new variation, No.19 Poudre, which is softer and makes use of the new musks that have become available since the original No.19 was formulated.

Roja Dove is thrilled with the arrival of a baby sister for the original No.19. “The beauty of a launch like this is it means that a whole new generation will suddenly look at one of the great classical perfumes and whilst they may be drawn to it through the new version, they might be tempted to try the old one. It would have been a great tragedy if No.19 had faded into oblivion.”

* Chanel No.19 Poudre (from £61) goes on sale on July 15. For stockists, call 020-7493 3836.

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My Week in Beauty

MONDAY

Like many of my friends, I spent Monday mourning the end of the best TV crime series since The Killing (which preceded it!) – Spiral, the French drama which (much more stylish than Law and Order) concerns itself not just with the cops, but also with the investigating judges, the prosecutors and the defence lawyers. There may be some damned good-looking actors in the cast (personally, I have a soft-spot for bad-boy Gilou) but the character who keeps me glued to the screen is the flame-haired bad girl lawyer Josephine Karlsson (Audrey Fleurot), whose wardrobe and look are always striking – and not at all your run-of-the-mill Parisian professional.  I’m sure I’m not the only viewer who’s been considering dyeing her hair red as a result of a girl crush on JK.

TUESDAY

When it comes to perfumes that are quintessentially Parisian, the house of Guerlain’s collection springs instantly to mind – and no wonder: it’s been on the go for over 150 years.

The Aqua Allegoria range may be quite a bit younger – it was introduced in 1999 – but it is steeped in the Guerlain tradition. The bottle is a classic – inspired by the original 19th century Eau de Cologne Imperiale flacon – and the fragrances are fresh and summery but very classical. This summer’s addition, Aqua Allegoria Jasminora (£35.50; from www.houseoffraser.co.uk from June 1) is a lovely fresh scent which was created by Guerlain’s Thierry Wasser using Calabrian jasmine, a lighter jasmine than is found in most perfumes. Its freshness is complemented by white flowers with green tones, along with cyclamen and lily of the valley. The bottom line? It’s a very feminine, classy summer scent.

WEDNESDAY

I’d been looking forward to my Wednesday afternoon catch-up with the Ojon PR girl for ages.. Why? Because I’d been tipped off that this fabulous haircare range was finally going to sort out the one problem that its fans have identified: the dodgy bottles.

Not only have the bottles been redesigned (no more broken lids – hurrah!) but the collection has been refined and revamped. I tried the Ojon Color Sustain (from £18; available from John Lewis from May 21) almost immediately and found it to be a worthy, possibly even superior, replacement for the old Shine & Protect products. I especially liked the Ojon Color Sustain Color Protecting Cream (£22) which protects the hair from the damaging effects of blow-drying.

THURSDAY

If there’s one company that knows how to do things in style it’s Chanel which chose Frasers in Glasgow as the site for its first Chanel Espace Parfums outside London, and invited journalists along to visit it on Thursday. Not only does this beautifully kitted-out boutique (everything about its look derives from Coco Chanel’s signature style and from aspects of her life) sell the Les Exclusifs collection of fragrances created or revived by house “nose” Jacques Polge, but it also offers customers the chance to discover the world of Chanel perfumes (48 in all) through its unique olfactive bar where concentrates of all the fragrances are sniffable on ceramic blotters. Fragrance expert Joanna Norman guided me through the Chanel perfumes on Thursday and it was a fascinating tour. What makes the ceramic blotter idea so useful is the fact that there’s no need to scoosh any perfumes – and therefore less likelihood of what industry people call “nasal confusion”. It’s much easier to identify what you like – and eliminate what you don’t. Anyone contemplating changing their perfume, or simply interested in how fragrance works should pop in and ask for a consultation.

FRIDAY

Unlike Kim Novak (pictured here, with the swoonsome Cary Grant), who showed hers off at every opportunity, my back has never really had any attention. But all that changed on Friday when I accepted an invitation to have a back treatment Clarins Spa in Frasers (0141 221 5760).

Clarins Neck, Back & Shoulder Massage (£33) proved to be just what the doctor ordered. Using the Renew Body Serum and the Smoothing Body Scrub, Lindsay, my therapist, untangled the knots of tension in my neck and shoulders and gave my back a thorough going-over, both in terms of massage and treating the usually neglected skin. The serum is great for hydrating, but doesn’t leave the skin feeling overloaded with product – perfect if congestion is an issue.

If you fancy getting your back in Cary-worthy condition, you can try out the Neck, Back & Shoulder Massage for free, if you book a Clarins Professional Face or Body Treatment at any Clarins Spa between now and May 31. To be redeemed by July 26.

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Coco Mademoiselle

The most stylish film you’re likely to see this month is just 30 seconds long and has no dialogue. It was shot in Paris by a BAFTA award-winning director and stars a Hollywood A-lister in a surprisingly action-packed role. Oh, and it’s a sequel. You’ll see it on TV any number of times  – and it might just inspire you to go on a shopping trip.

It’s the new advert for Chanel’s Coco Mademoiselle fragrance – and it stars British actress Keira Knightley, who has been the face of the perfume for the last three years. For 25-year-old Keira, reprising the role of the elegant starlet leading a glamorous Parisian life offered the chance to be reunited with Joe Wright, her director on two of her most successful films – Pride and Prejudice and Atonement – as well as the last Coco Mademoiselle ad, which has been running since 2008.

That advert famously opened with Keira, wearing a man’s shirt and bowler hat, nipping into an apartment through its open window and dressing herself in a 1930s-style scarlet evening gown which she wears to an event before fleeing into the moonlit streets of Paris.

The new advert also crams a great deal of story into its running time – and Keira is clearly still playing the same mysterious character: same hairdo, same penchant for grey nail varnish, same hurry to get to where she’s going (this time it’s to a photo shoot) – and the same desire to flee once she’s done her job. But this new advert required a bit more preparation from the actress
than the last one. Why?

Giggling, she replies: “Because of the motorbike! All Joe told me before we started work on the ad was that it would involve a motorbike. I must admit I was rather terrified of the idea. I think that Joe thought that I was the kind of girl who would already have been on one – which is flattering for me, because that means that he must see me as a very cool girl! But in reality, I’d never been on this kind of bike – so I took a few lessons.”

After her “crash” course, Keira felt sufficiently confident to shoot the ad – only to be told that the motorbike that would be used wouldn’t be any old motorbike. “They told me it would be a Ducati – and that was a completely different story. Especially since my instructor very calmly explained to me that if the motorbike fell, I would be unable to lift it up. Mind you, I had a lot of fun with my lessons – though I would have loved to have been as good as my biker companions who made revving up their bikes look so easy. I had to cheat a little, but this made me want to take more lessons so I could really make the bike go ‘vroom’!”

Of course, you can’t ride a motorbike in a Chanel evening gown. So Karl Lagerfeld promised to kit Keira out in appropriate gear. “All I knew before I saw it was that was a catsuit and that it would be beige,” laughs Keira. ” I didn’t have any details. I discovered it in his offices once it was done and immediately when I put it on, I felt like I was slipping into a second skin. I felt like a Chanel superwoman!”

The colour of the catsuit was obviously chosen to stand out alongside the black gear worn by the male bikers in the film, but that wasn’t the only reason: beige was Coco Chanel’s signature colour, and it’s one of the advert’s many little tributes to the legendary founder of the house of Chanel. Her famous mirrored staircase, which is to be found at her original boutique in Paris, is featured, as is her beloved Place Vendome, the magnificent square onto which her bedroom at the Ritz Hotel faced. Her love of pearls is reflected in the keyring which Keira carries her bike keys on, and even the actress’s loose bob seems to evoke the look of Coco Chanel in her heyday.

Was Coco Chanel an inspiration for the character Keira plays? She won’t say, but she does admit to being very impressed by what she’s learned about Chanel and her background. “I’m sure I would have found her intimidating in person. In my mind, she is incredibly mysterious but also strong, powerful and – above all – independent. Which is an essential quality to me.

“Actually, one of the things I love about Coco Mademoiselle – which was my fragrance even before I was first approached by Chanel – is that although it’s extremely feminine, it gives me this feeling of power. Before it, I only wore men’s fragrances. I didn’t want something light and flowery – I’m not that kind of girl. Coco Mademoiselle was the first perfume I tried and thought: ‘Yes, that fits.’ It’s the mixture of strength and subtlety. It doesn’t overpower but it makes you feel you can stand up straight – and that’s important to me.”

Keira was given her first bottle of Coco Mademoiselle by a friend who was fed up with her wearing men’s perfume and told her “it was time to grow up!”. If she hadn’t fallen in love with the fragrance almost on first sniff, Keira would undoubtedly have discovered Coco Mademoiselle for herself by visiting one of Chanel’s olfactive tables – one of which will be a key part of the company’s new beauty zone, an Espace Parfums with a Chanel Make-up Studio, opening in Frasers, Glasgow, later this month.

The Chanel olfactive table houses the 48 concentrates which make up the entire range of Chanel perfumery. From April 21, when the the Espace Parfums opens, fragrance experts will be on-hand to guide customers through the collection using a new ceramic blotter system which will allow them to sample every scent. There will also be a floating bar showcasing the entire Les Exclusifs mini collection of perfumes which, until recently, were only available in Chanel boutiques and Selfridges.

The Espace Parfums is the first that the company has opened in the UK outside the capital. The revamped beauty area, which will have a make-up play station and a giant screen showing the latest make-up collections, will put Scottish Chanel fans on an equal footing with Londoners as the “Fast Track” make-up collections, designed by Peter Philips, the creative director of Chanel Make-up and previously only sold in Selfridges and in Chanel boutiques, will be on sale here for the first time.

So, later this month, make like Keira and get on your bike – down to Frasers to check it out….
* View the Coco Mademoiselle adverts online at www.chanel.com, and the Chanel Espace Parfums and Chanel Make-up Studio open in Frasers, Glasgow, on April 21

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The Wisdom of Pearls

Pearls are big news this season in the beauty world, with Chanel and Guerlain both paying tribute to that most flattering of jewels in their spring make-up collections.  How better to complement a pearl-inspired make-up than with the real thing? Here, then, is a selection of stylish ladies who knew how to work their strings of pearls. Josephine Baker (sometimes nicknamed the Black Pearl),  knew how to get mileage out of her beads – both offstage (above) and on (below). Given that she made her name on the Paris stage, there’s a good chance that some of these pearls came from the boutique owned by one Mademoiselle Chanel ..

Silent movie icon Louise Brooks got in on the pearl trend when she played Lulu in Pandora’s Box in 1928.

By the 1940s, multi-strand necklaces which sat at the collarbone had become the “in” way to wear pearls, and, as screen siren Hedy Lamarr demonstrates here, it was particularly effective with a black chiffon. Anything else would have been too heavy-looking..

In the 1950s, a single strand worn high at the neck was a favourite way of wearing pearls, especially if you wanted to achieve a demure, ladylike look – which is clearly what a certain Miss Monroe was going for in this next photo.

And Elizabeth Taylor (almost) managed to deflect attention away from her low-cut dress with her ladylike single strand of pearls..

Of course, the reason for pearls becoming so strongly associated with a ladylike look was the fact that they were – along with white gloves – a key component of the signature style of Grace Kelly, the Hollywood star who became a real-life princess. Here she is in one of her beautiful Edith Head gowns from Rear Window (1954), a film in which her character’s chic wardrobe was designed to reflect the star’s own.

Jacqueline Kennedy was another American aristocrat who was known for her penchant for pearls – simple jewellery to complement the unfussy lines of her much-admired clothes.

Just when pearls were at risk of becoming too conservative a style choice, along came Sophia Loren – whose bib-like multi-strand was clearly a favourite, as she was often photographed wearing it.. If anyone could inject some va-va-voom into the art of wearing pearls, she could..

These days, anything goes – pearl-wise. Heaping them on to create a mess of pearls has become a statement-making way of of wearing them. Sarah Jessica Parker worked this look in Sex and the City but I don’t think it’s been done better in recent times than by the singer Rihanna whose pearls were the talking point of the Inglorious Basterds premiere in 2009.


But the pearly queen of them all – the woman who stayed true to the jewel throughout her life and who is still teaching us how to wear it- was Coco Chanel (pictured below with Serge Lifar in 1937) who was layering real and faux pearls of different sizes from early in her career. Vive les perles!

(c) Lipnitzki / Roger-Viollet


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