She started with several hats and "one dress, but a tasteful dress," added sweaters, and within five years had made Maison Chanel a fashion house to reckon with. Coco introduced the tricot sailor frock and the pullover sweater, unearthed wool jersey from its longtime service as underwear fabric and put it to use in soft, clinging dresses. She ushered in gypsy skirts, embroidered silk blouses and accompanying shawls. Even then, Chanel clothes were as high-priced as any Paris couturier's: but only Chanel delighted in having her styles copied--and made accessible at low cost to millions.
"There is time for work. And time for love." said Coco Chanel. "That leaves no other time." In the '20s, Chanel filled her off-hours with Arthur ("Boy") Capel, a wealthy English polo player whose lavish gifts of jewels served as the keystones of Coco's astonishing collection, and whose blazer--lent to the designer on a chilly day at the polo grounds--became the source of her famous box jacket. From the Duke of Westminster, Chanel's most renowned amour, came more jewels: these she had copied, setting off the costume-jewelry vogue. With a personal fortune rumored by then to be close to $15 million--most of it the result of the pungent success of Chanel No. 5 --the designer calculated that she had little to gain, and quite a name to lose, from marriage to the Duke. So she finally turned him down, explaining with characteristic bluntness. "There are a lot of duchesses, but only One Coco Chanel."
Cool Reception 冷落
In 1938, with the war coming on and the Italian designer Schiaparelli moving in on the fashion front, Chanel retired. For the next 15 years, she shuttled between Vichy and Switzerland returning to reopen her Paris salon in 1954 only to boost lagging perfume sales. Her jersey-and-tweed suits won a cool reception from the press, but soon nearly every knockoff house was competing to turn out the closest replica. Chanel had long since refused to join the cabal designers who tried to prevent style piracy. "I am not an artist," she insisted. "I want my dresses to go out on the street." Out they went by the thousands, easy to copy, because of the straightforward design, and cheap to produce because the fabric was standard. Even a copy of a Chanel could claim its cachet. Private customers paid $700 for the original: buyers. Buyers intent on knockoffs paid close to $1,500.