Do you know Coco? Despite dozens of biographies both published and filmed, a name that doubles as a complimentary adjective and a perfume that sells at the rate of one bottle every 30 seconds, Gabrielle ‘Coco’ Chanel’s life remains rich territory for writers and fans.
The lure of the undiscovered detail has led countless authors to tackle the designer’s life story. Lisa Chaney, the latest biographer to face up to the legend, unearthed never-before-published information about Chanel’s life for Coco Chanel: An Intimate Life, publishing in October.
Chaney, WWD reports, claims to have ‘concrete evidence that the designer used drugs, embraced bisexuality and had an affair with Salvador Dalí while he was married.’ A press release heralding the book says that Chaney found evidence in the Swiss Federal Archives and elsewhere to prove that Chanel’s German paramour Hans Gunther von Dincklage spied for the Nazis during WWII.
Chanel’s disregard for social conventions characterised her early life and career. That contempt for an ordinary life, combined with her ambition, fuelled her rise despite a lack of family history, independent wealth or a husband. Some of her less enterprising, more negative behaviour has been documented. Whether her pride also pushed her into further regrettable associations and actions is a matter for the historians... we know we’ll be reading.