Friday, 13 January 2012

Behind The Scenes: Tea With The Grand Dame, Coco Chanel

Over the holiday season I had some time to recuperate and rest but being me, was soon bored and dying to get back to work again! So what did I do? I started clearing out the photo library on my computer, trying to bring a system to the chaos and the multitude of random photos collected over my career! Whilst looking and sorting, I started reminiscing about all the places that I have had the fortune to to visit, then I found this series of photos! 

Years ago, before the invention and convenience of camera phones, I went to Paris with a magazine from Asia to shoot the archive couture collection from one of the most celebrated and famous of Parisian designers. I was young but already a fan and was so excited! What the magazine didn't tell me was that we were going to be shooting on location in her apartment! Enough of the suspense, I am talking of no other than Madame Coco Chanel and the location was none other than in her actual apartment above the boutique at 31 Rue Cambon, Paris!
I will emphasise that I took a stupidly crazy number of photos being the cliched Asian tourist but I curse computers and technology for letting a virus destroy all my pictures! I thought I had lost everything but was so happy to find these few pictures lurking somewhere in my current computer. I apologise if they're blurred or not very good but there's no way I am deleting any of these!
As a designer Coco Chanel was fascinated with foreign countries and would often ship furniture and ornaments direct from continents like Africa and The Orient. It's a bit politically incorrect by today's standards but I was so impressed by the beauty and detail, I think as soon as I had time, I just spent ages looking at all the screens, books, paintings and ornaments.
One of the most iconic parts of the apartment was the spiral staircase that allowed access from the apartment down to the atelier, where she sat to watch her first fashion show whilst it happened, as shown in the movie Coco Before Chanel, played by the fabulous Audrey Tatou. Frustratingly those photos I did not manage to salvage!

I did find a few other ones of the model who flew in from Asia for the shoot. A curious creature with elegantly long limbs and an incredible grace and awareness that fascinated me! She spoke no English and if I remember her name was Alien! Have a look at some of the pictures from the shoot. 
She wore gorgeous couture pieces hand-made, hand-beaded and sequined by expert ladies who worked in the workshop upstairs. I spent as much time as I could talking to them and harassing them with questions! They were so lovely and patient with me and even laughed when I spotted a gigantic bottle of Chanel No 5 and pretended to put it in my makeup kit! They shouted out that it was filled with coloured water! 

It really was a magical opportunity and although frustrating at losing the pictures, I am eternally grateful for having experienced it. I hope this wonderful memory of mine has been entertaining and gives you an insight of my profession.

24 comments:

  1. Wonderful! Thanks for sharing!

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  2. @Jamilla Camel: You're very welcome and thanks for commenting x

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  3. A once in a life time experience and great photographs, thanks Kenneth, am very pleased you put this upx

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  4. @Charlie: Thanks Charlie, it was indeed! I wished I had more to show. Very very annoying. Thank you for the comment x

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  5. How magical - so happy for you that you found these beautiful pics!
    Nic xx

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    1. Thanks Nic, I am so glad I did, it's been bugging me for years that I didn't really have anything to remember the experience by! Thanks for the comment x

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  6. yes that's alien, she is a thai model! this proves the 6degrees theory because I know my friends are friends with this woman and she met you so we are connected by someone....small world (thought that was interesting)

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    1. Wow! Now that is really quite amazing. Yeah I have always wondered about that theory. I loved working with Alien, she was amazing. Thank you for taking the time to comment x

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  7. How fascinating for you, and what an amazing experience. I loved looking at the pictures. Thanks for posting xx

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    1. Thank you for taking the time to comment, I loved walking down memory lane when I found these pictures. x

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  8. Great pics. I love anything to do with Chanel, so was very pleased you posted these! x

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    1. Thank you! Me too, I'm a huge fan. x

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  9. Wow. Thankyou so much for sharing these. How sumptuous and fascinating. A real bit of history.

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    1. You're very welcome Helen, I loved every bit of writing this post. It was incredible remembering those days! Thanks for the comment X

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  10. I bet you could spend days just wondering around the place and studying the sights. This woman knew how to collect life!

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    1. Oh you're not wrong there Phil! It was incredible and I loved it. Thanks for the comment x

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  11. Wow, what an amazing experience. Beautiful pictures. Glad you were able to save some of them! x

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    1. So was I Leanne, so was I! Thank you for taking time to read and comment x

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  12. In love with the library shot! Just divine, eclectic decorating taste!

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    1. Isn't it incredible? I was gobsmacked by the grandeur of it all! Thank you for reading and commenting! X

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  13. OMG SOH! I am totes jealous of this amazing experience!

    I read this twice and have been staring at the pics for like half an hour! I want to know more, love, love, love Chanel, such a mysterious little creature!

    Love,

    Farrah
    xxx

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    1. Thanks Farrah! I know! I was like a crazed possessed person running round looking at everything in the apartment! Thanks for the comment hon! X

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  14. OMG...Its like a dream come true.I loved the couture pieces they r so exotic....
    Its all just so amazing...Reading you after a lonngg time.

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  15. Awww thanks Neeraj, the couture pieces are incredible! So much detail and hand work! Unbelievably intricacy by skilled ladies who take their jobs so seriously. I loved it. Thank you for the comment!

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