Justine Picardie presents her book at the Edinburgh Book Festival 2012

This article is from 2012

Justine Picardie: fashion conscious

Justine Picardie tells The List how Coco Chanel has shaped her own world

‘I wouldn’t say I have an interest in Chanel; it’s more an obsession,’ says Justine Picardie. The former Vogue features editor and journalist wrote Coco Chanel, The Legend and the Life after almost ten years of rigorous research. As she tried to learn more about the life of the notoriously guarded fashion icon, Picardie was granted privileged access to the House of Chanel, and built up the trust of Karl Lagerfeld, as well as Coco Chanel’s niece, Gabrielle.

Picardie traces her passion for fashion back to her own mum’s wedding day. ‘She got married in black, which really was a very subversive and radical thing to do then. It was a Chanel pattern little black dress, and I think I’ve always had this powerful emotional attachment to Chanel and her fashions ever since. I guess I’ve always found an inextricable connection between clothes and emotions, and times in your life. It’s the reason I named my first book My Mother’s Wedding Dress.

On the day I spoke to Picardie, she’s just back from her own wedding in Aberdeenshire, where she wore, unsurprisingly, Chanel. ‘There’s this notion that clothes are all about surface; something very superficial, when actually there are no surfaces without hidden depths,’ says Picardie. ‘I’m interested in exploring those hidden depths. Even the colour black itself. For Coco, it represented many qualities she embodied: defiance, independence, strength. She was a hugely intriguing character, but also someone who felt great loneliness.’

Picardie herself has spoken openly of the comfort she found in her Chanel book project, as it came about during a painful divorce four years ago. ‘I was feeling pretty sorry for myself. And here was this courageous woman, who never seemed to give up. Chanel was a real fighter, and was still designing aged 87! That image kept me going.’

For Picardie’s event, she’ll focus on Chanel’s Scottish connections including a relationship with the Duke of Westminster which caused her to spend time on his estate in Sutherland. ‘She’d never been to Scotland before, but he took her up there, and she loved the place. I had no idea there’d be this Scottish connection, but I discovered these amazing photos of her salmon fishing in the 20s. That was totally unexpected. And that’s where she discovered the delights of Scottish tweed, still a big part of Chanel today.’

Justine Picardie, Charlotte Square Gardens, 11 Aug, 8.30pm, £10 (£8).

Justine Picardie: See You Later, Innovator

She’d written about everyone from Daphne du Maurier to her own sister, before Justine Picardie turned her evocative attention towards Chanel. Coco Chanel: The Legend and the Life was dubbed the definitive biography of an innovator who founded the most successful fashion label in history and an icon who thrived on myth…

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