I’m so excited to share this title with you. I absolutely love Coco Chanel. I own at least a dozen books about her, and I WISH I could afford to buy a Chanel blouse or suit – thus, the books. Jeanne Mackin has written THE LAST COLLECTION (Berkley) and it centers on the rivalry between Coco and Elsa Schisparelli. You knew with all that success and brilliance, there had to be some drama and controversy.
Jeanne Mackin has written, THE LAST COLLECTION (Berkley), the very first in-depth look at the stranger-than-fiction rivalry between Coco Chanel and fellow designer Elsa Schiaparelli, and their battle for the soul of Parisian fashion.
- Describe Paris, 1938.
Paris was a city of contrasts in 1938. In some parts of the city, goats still roamed the streets; the roads were cobbled rather than paved. Other parts of the city were regal, beautiful remnants of the nineteenth century. Yet Paris was also a very modern city in atmosphere. Everything that was new and exciting in the arts was happening in Paris. Artists, musicians, writers, flocked there from all over the world. Americans as well, wanted to be there for many reasons: the creativity, the beauty, the less expensive cost of living, the pleasure-seeking. American was in the throes of the Great Depression and prohibition. It was grim and prim. Paris was wild and fun and creative.
- What distinguished Coco and Schiap’s designs?
Coco gets credit for liberating women from the stylistic confines of the 19th century: the corsets, the long skirts, the huge hats that had to be tied on. Coco, a very athletic woman herself, defined a new type of femininity, with easy-to-wear clothing that liberated the body rather than confining it. Schiap, on the other hand, made clothing fun. Some of her designs were absolutely wacky: an evening dress with a huge lobster painted down the front of it (worn by the Duchess of Windsor!), a hat shaped like a shoe, white gloves with pink leather tips to look like nail polish. She made the point that fashion is also art.
- Explain couture to the non-fashion person.
A tough question, for a woman who lives in black jeans and boots. For many people, couture implies too expensive for me! In fact, couture means clothing designed by up-scale houses and designers (Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Steve McQueen) and then custom-made and fitted for their clientele. It is the opposite, actually, of nameless off-the-rack wear. And it can be expensive. That said, fast clothing, as opposed to slow clothing (couture) is harder on the environment, not as well made, and tends to date pretty quickly. Couture lasts and certainly gives considerable pleasure when it is worn! I’d rather have one custom-made Armani jacket than a whole closet of other black jackets, if anyone is giving one away!
- Why do we readers love Historical Fiction?
It transports us. Historical novels allow us to live in other times, other places, to inhabit other lifetimes. Some people read historical because it is a fun and exciting way to find out more about the world, about history, about where we are now, and how we got here. When I read great historical fiction I lose track of me, my house, my time…and am truly transported somewhere else for as long as I’m turning those pages!
- Explain the process of placing a fictional character/storyline in a non-fictional background.
My historical novels always have a framework of real people and real events upon which I create the fictional story. My characters, in The Last Collection, for instance, Ania, Lily and Charlie, are fictional characters interacting with the very real characters of Elsa Schiaparelli and Coco Chanel. The fictional characters, in some ways, become representative of people the two designers might actually have known, and they are important for how they become emblematic of history: the expatriot Americans, the exiled Poles, all the people who will eventually become involved in the events of Hitler’s aggressions. And they become people I am so very emotionally invested in…at some point in the book, usually very quickly, they no longer feel fictional to me.
- What are you currently working on?
Another historical novel, this time set in southern France in the 1920’s and moving some fifty years into the future. Trends of the 20’s – feminism among them, can be traced in a timeline that begins after World War I and ends after World War II. Like one of my favorite authors, Pat Barker, I like to examine how politics and war are constantly interweaving with and affecting private lives.
- Anything you’d like to add?
Thanks for your interest, and the great questions!
Books and stories have always been an important part of my life. I can’t remember a time when I did not have that narrative urge to create stories of my own, and my imagination invariably led me into past events and historical settings. If fiction is about ‘what if,’ my novels have always been inspired by my curiosity about certain people. What if I could have seen that, been there, spoken with her, argued with them? Stories take wing when those people begin to speak back to me, when that voice in my head tells me a narrative is beginning to take shape.
There is so much beauty, so many things of interest and wonder in this world. When I write, I want people to see the beauty and to feel the wonder. The past, with all its stories and voices, leads us to this moment.
Thanks to Berkley Publishing Group we have one copy to giveaway. Just tell us what you love about fashion, or perhaps you really don’t care. We’ll announce a winner soon. Good luck.
GIVEAWAY: USA only please.