Back in the 30s, Gabrielle Chanel was a powerful woman who had already been a household name in Europe and America for more than 15 years. Her name was synonymous with high fashion, exquisite style and good taste and, truth be told, everybody wanted a piece of her. A genius woman had managed to build a brand that seamlessly encompassed 20thcentury’s modernism and an iconoclastic perception of femininity. The world was at her feet.
At the same time, Hollywood was going through a rough time after the 1929 recession. Samuel Goldwyn, a movie producer who ran United Artists, believed that Coco was the key to the industry’s rebirth. If women went to movies to see how other women dressed as he believed, having the talented couturier design clothes for the actresses who starred in his films could increase the number of moviegoers by upgrading the aesthetic context of his productions. After all, up until then it was widely believed that clothes in films did not reflect the essence of fashion. They were considered more like replicas, lacking the elegance of a true artisan creation. Therefore, Chanel was set to bring class to Hollywood.
And class she brought. Strictly on her own terms and having made clear that she is nobody’s employee, Gabrielle worked on three movies with Goldwyn, dressing actresses like Charlotte Greenwood, Gloria Swanson and Joan Blondell. But despite the acclaimed beauty of the designs, the collaboration between Chanel and Goldwyn was deemed less than successful by the press on both coasts, and the reason was simple: Chanel was too classy for Hollywood. Coco was not into commercial flamboyance but fine craftsmanship. And time proved her right.
GLORIA SWANSON IN A CHANEL-DESIGNED GOWN IN 1931’S TONIGHT FEVER