Coco Chanel: A Biography of the World's Most Elegant Woman

by Alexandra Grashkina-Hristov

What's in the book?

Learn about the life and adventures of Coco Chanel

    • Introduction
    • Background and upbringing
    • Major Accomplishments and Awards
    • Personal Life
    • Recent News
    • Public Statements and Attributed Quotes
    • Conclusion
    • Coco Chanel Trivia and Facts
    • Sources
    • Additional Reading



In the 1930s, Metro Goldwyn offered a French designer one million dollars for a month’s work to "reorganize the dressmaking department of United Artists studios and anticipate fashions six months ahead, solving thereby the eternal problem of keeping gowns up to date.” One million dollars in 1930 is the equivalent of over $13,000,000 dollars in 2012. Not bad for a one-month contract.

The Hollywood studio also offered her caviar and champagne, introduced her to stars like Greta Garbo, Marlene Dietrich, and Claudette Colbert, and reserved an all-white train as she traveled from New York to Los Angeles.

But nothing could impress the extravagant, demanding, and eternally fascinating fashion designer, Coco Chanel, founder of the Chanel fashion house.


In the early 1920s, when Chanel worked on the costume designs for the Ballet Russes Dance Company, she met the Russian composer Igor Stravinsky. Stravinsky, considered one of the most original and influential composer of the 20th century, worked with ballet master Diaghilev on the ballets "The Firebird," "Petrushka" and "The Rite of Spring." Born in Russia, where he studied with another famous composer, Rimsky-Korsakov, he settled in France in the 1920s but did not obtain French citizenship until 1934.

Although biographer Paul Morand wrote that the two had an affair, both Stravinsky’s widow as well as the Chanel fashion house have denied it. Despite the denial, a 2009 French film described the alleged affair between the composer and the fashion icon. The film, entitled “Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky” starred famous French actress Anna Mouglalis as Coco and Russian actress Elena Morozova as Stravinsky’s wife Catherine. The interaction between the two women becomes the focal point of the film, as Stravinsky’s wife becomes completely aware of the affair and even spends time living at Chanel’s home with her four children.

Chanel allegedly had affairs with other influential men, including the poet Pierre Reverdy, who influence the provocative art movements of the time, including surrealism, dadaism, and cubism. Her involvement with Reverdy ended in 1926 but they maintained a friendship for another 40 years.

Another of Chanel’s lovers was the illustrator and designer, Paul Iribe. Their relationship lasted until his death 1935 and involved some shared political convictions. Chanel even financed Iribe's monthly newsletter, Le Témoin, an ultra-nationalist publication which promoted a fear of foreigners and contained anti-semitic overtones. Many writers have speculated about Coco Chanel’s relationship with the Nazi government and her affair with a Nazi officer.

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