Coco Chanel – the life, the woman, the icon.

Coco Chanel – the life, the woman, the icon.

After Chanel shopping, a drop of Coco's fave boisson champagne atop Galleries Lafayette xx

Loulabelle's FrancoFiles Episode 11

Guest: Sarah Zwick

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I chatted recently with ma belle amie Sarah Zwick who grew up and lives in Bayonne, France (in the Basque region of the southwest).

Sarah and I discussed the French perception of iconic designer Coco Chanel. Sometimes the manner in which a person’s native country views them can be quite different to the rest of the world, so I was interested to hear Sarah’s perspective.

Sarah spoke of Coco Chanel as a personal favourite for her growing up in France. Sarah recalls her earliest memories of her grandmother and mother wearing Chanel No 5 which was launched in 1921. Prior to that though Coco (Gabrielle Bonheur Chanel) had a fairly tough life.

Born in 1883, Coco’s mother passed away when she was young and her father surrendered her to a convent to be raised there. She never saw her father again. She started designing as a milliner and was fortunate enough to be sponsored by wealthy friends to expand her boutiques to include more women’s fashion. Moving in these circles she mixed with the Russian Tsars, which is the connection that resulted in the creation of her parfums.

Around the world we have a perspective of Coco Chanel as being very chic. In France she is remembered this way too, but also for being the person to free women’s fashion from corsets, designing the first trousers for women and the first women’s suit.

It’s not something we spoke about in this podcast episode, but on further research I learned that Coco worked closely with the Nazis during WW2. The brand these days has become so much more than the person though.

Marilyn Monroe was once asked by a journalist what she wore to bed as she disembarked from a flight. Miss M replied  “What do I wear in bed? Why a few drops of Chanel No. 5 of course.” It was endorsements such as this that helped the Chanel brand rise to the iconic status it holds today.

Each time I have been fortunate enough to travel to France, I have squirrelled away some extra cash to go to les Galleries Lafayette, and head straight to the Chanel counter to      purchase a different Chanel parfum and also the exquisitely beautiful face creams. We’re not getting any younger and her Chanel products have some sort of magic in them I think! Or I hope they do anyway!  A stroll through the original Chanel store at 31 Rue Cambon is also a wonderful Paris memory for me.


In 2009 a film about the life of Coco Chanel in 2009 was released staring French actress Audrey Tautou. It was called Coco Avant Chanel which translates as Coco before Chanel. The movie highlighted a period of Coco’s life when she was a chanteuse in a club. She was known for singing a song titled Qui qu’a vu Coco (Who ha seen Coco) which is how she got her name.


Coco Chanel famously once said “I only drink champagne on two occasions: when I am in love and when I am not.” And she considered that a diet of champagne and caviar would suffice to sustain her!

So with that in mind, I am sharing a recipe for a beautiful little fish soufflé with a champagne sauce and salmon caviar.

This recipe uses lemon sole, but depending on what fish is available in your part of the world you may wish to substitute for something local.

Souffléd sole creams with champagne sauce and salmon caviar

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