Why Coco Chanel Was A Total Asshole, But We Should All Continue To Buy Chanel Perfume

Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel’s role as a Nazi spy is already well-documented. She was on the payroll of SS General Walter Schellenberg, and participated in a mission to pressure Winston Churchill into ending hostilities with Germany. The official Chanel line is that this is impossible, because Gabby “counted Jewish people among her close friends” (http://www.usatoday.com/life/books/news/2011-08-17-coco-chanel-nazi-spy-book_n.htm). Ahh, the Mel Gibson defense. Everybody knows that Jewish friends magically ward off anti-semitism!

I would also like to add that I have always been puzzled by the way that Gabby has been idolized and presented as the last word in elegance. Chanel was a cruel, nasty sourpuss of a woman who slept her way to the top. (Please note that I bring up Chanel’s sexual history not because I find it distasteful or immoral,  but because much of her success can be attributed to her choice in lovers rather than her business savvy). I find her aesthetics boring and her attitudes insufferable. “Vulgarity is the ugliest word in our language”? Anyone who’s ever watched Jersey Shore knows that vulgarity is delightful. Allow me to defer to the far more entertaining Diana Vreeland: “Vulgarity is a very important ingredient in life. A little bad taste is like a nice splash of paprika. We all need a splash of bad taste- it’s hearty, it’s healthy, it’s physical. I think we could use more of it. No taste is what I’m against.”

Now, how can I tell you to keep buying Chanel perfumes in light of Gabby’s poor behavior? A less well-known fact about Parfums Chanel is that Chanel never owned it. Parfums Chanel was and continues to be owned by the Wertheimers, a clever Jewish family that outsmarted good old Gabby. Pierre Wertheimer funded Parfums Chanel in 1924 (before Chanel No. 5 was released, and before anyone knew whether Parfums Chanel would be successful) and retained 70% of the profits, leaving Gabby with 10%. Although 10% of the very profitable Parfums Chanel was actually a lot of money, Gabby was unsatisfied with this arrangement. In what is widely regarded as a “total dick move”, Gabs attempted to wrest control of Parfums Chanel by taking advantage of anti-semitic Nazi laws that prevented Jews from owning property.

Unfortunately for Gabby, the Wertheimers had already anticipated her petty actions and instituted a Christian proxy to run Parfums Chanel in their place. After WWII ended, the Wertheimer family returned to France and reasserted full control over Parfums Chanel. They continue to own and operate the company today.

I encourage you all to join me in celebrating the Wertheimers’ ingenuity. You now have a totally legitimate reason to enthusiastically financially support Parfums Chanel by buying Chanel fragrances. And while you’re at it, stick it to Gabby and watch an episode or two of Real Housewives.

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44 thoughts on “Why Coco Chanel Was A Total Asshole, But We Should All Continue To Buy Chanel Perfume

  1. My goodness you’re a brave woman. Fearless. Are you an Aries, by chance?!

    She’s seems a total bitch (Gabby!) and that’s maybe the strongest reason for my liking her. I generally like bitchy, assertive women. But her anti-Semitic leanings have always bothered me. And her attitude is so similar to my grandmother, who has passed away now, but let’s suffice it to say this particular grandmother was not warm, kind or pleasant. My Grandmother Anna actually looked like Coco and shared her strict view of the world. She never ate and always looked perfectly coiffed and severe.

    1. Ha! Close, I’m a Leo! That is very kind of you to say, but I promise that I am not fearless. What I am is afraid of different things than most people are.

      I too have a huge soft spot for bitchy women, but unfortunately Coco’s Nazi ties put her closer to straight-up evil than bitchy for me. I have met a grandmother who sounds much like your own. I met her while she was visiting her granddaughter in a hospital eating disorder ward. There was no doubt as to how her granddaughter got there. I hope that yours was not quite such a bad influence!

  2. I mostly agree with you here. The Nazi/Anti-semitic thing is totally gross and she seems to be a tremendous elitist. I also honestly am not so sure I even agree entirely with her modern aesthetics.

    The only point where I would depart from you I think is where you mention her sleeping to the top… I have a hard time judging women who are non-monogamous, for a variety of reasons. We expect the same behavior from men, but women do it, somehow, we’re horrified. I don’t find it too horrifying or amoral, actually.

    1. Susan, I am so glad that you made this point. I do not consider Coco’s hookup habits to be amoral in the slightest. But I often hear people talk about how Chanel was such a savvy businesswoman, or such a plucky orphan that became successful through hard work, and it’s clear that that is just not true. She slept with men who would be able to finance her business ventures. I mentioned her non-monogamity to dispel the various myths about her business acumen, not to pass judgement on her character (the whole her being a Nazi thing already speaks plenty to her character, I think!)

  3. I am with you 100% on this Ari (by the way I am a Leo too! 25/7). The woman was a sour lonely woman who used her self-loathing as a spring coil to propel her to the top.Nazis were powerful at the time so she was a Nazi. She could have painted herself blue and wear horns if that was what she had to do to forget where she came from and what she was running away from. Her sad face till the end of her life shows that she really never made it. Her contribution to fashion however is amazing. If you look at how women looked before and after her, the difference is stunning. She is responsible for liberating women’s bodies from corsets. I don’t really need a reason to keep buying Chanel fragrances because I do not believe that someone has to be a great person to create great things. Most great artists are great pricks as well. Thank god we don’t have to relate with them on a personal level to appreciate their work.

    1. Leos unite! 🙂 I actually have a slightly different perspective on artists- I feel that there are so many talented artists in this world that there is no need for me to pay attention to ones that I find offensive. But of course I believe that your policy on artists is 100% equally comprehensive, and probably less limiting!

  4. I agree with you, Ari. Chanel seemed like someone who was in denial of/running from her past. She had her eyes on the prize and was ruthless in attaining her goals. I believe she secretly felt that her less-than-perfect childhood excused her behavior later in life and her “me first and everyone else be damned” attitude. I do appreciate her place in the history of fashion, however. When she died, although I was just a teen, I got the feeling that the mourners were more fans of her design art than of her as a human being. Even though she was surrounded with luxury, she seems to have died a prickly, bitter, paranoid woman with a stone for a heart.

    1. I really like this observation, Julie. I’ve never been crazy about that “troubled past” defense, because there are so many people who have difficult lives and still manage to be wonderful people.

  5. Something inside me wants me to say it so I will say it! —> Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn what she done, she said, she lived, she liked or hated… and about knowing of Chanel House in every form.
    I just can’t help it.
    Simply I am lucky enough… and also I don’t care being ignorant about this issue.

    Even on only thing I would be interested in, which is Chanel perfumes, I generally dislike them: I have trouble with that ‘chanel’ characteristic note that I find they are smelling always the same….

    Of course I don’t care at all for the rest of her person her life her work and her fuckin’ dog face… She bores me to tears, so I didn’t read your article about her either -Sorry!-, but only the title and the comments. 🙂

    1. so well, I’ve just read it… and well, I must say, just for you. I’m not so egotistical! Hard Task for me!
      As an aquarius and I live life in my own fantasy world, so I’m a loner–weird huh, sort of a Rain Man of the zodiac…. that means when I’m not interested in a subject I’m not interested in anyone else’s opinion of the subject, even when the subject turned out to be more interesting that I initially thought.
      but… this doesn’t means that I don’t wish I could make people happier … so now it’s done (are you happier?? say yes, please!). And well said, Ari! but next time try to do in a more synthesised way.

      (HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH)

  6. Yeah, I’ve long been aware of Coco’s less than gleaming backstory. There were a lot of ladies during that time who I feel did what they must to survive, Coco, however, was not one of them by a long shot. She used the Nazi doctrine and ideology for her own gain.

    Randomly, have you seen the Chanel No. 5 perfume ad that had them extracting the scent from the 5 most beautiful women’s corpses? It was creepy, reminded me of the film Perfume. I dunno why they thought it would sell perfume. But I can’t think of Coco without thinking of that ad any longer.

    1. No, I’ve never seen that ad! Sounds extremely creepy. Better suited to Eau de Voldemort or something to that effect.

      There are so many stories of incredible French men and women who risked and sacrificed their lives to protect their Jewish friends. In light of their heroism, I don’t see how anyone can view Coco as anything other than utterly vile. That’s why Chanel is actually not as popular in France as the brand is in the US or UK- the French remember her as a traitor.

  7. ahaha Christos! I have a pair of Leos in my life and I know them, too. I love them, their force and passion! 😀 Leo and Aquarius share some similar personality traits: their need of sociability, after all… the way they happen to be favorites in a center of attention’ leadership due to their eccentricities, after all… the weirdness in most points of view, after all… their need of escaping when they can stand as individuals, after all… so they are just oriented towards the same rush and adrenalinic things but from an opposite direction. One of the essential differences is that I think Lions are so uptight and so concerned about what other people think about them, and they want appreciation, recognition, applause and in short, to control the physical things ….. otherwise Aquarians don’t care about it at all, but they lean more toward the mental state of things, So I don’t give a damn about Chanel nor about my reputation either! LOL But unless you don’t have an argument, please I DO NEED to argue! LOL

  8. I totally agree with you about Chanel, the woman. I am Jewish, but I would feel the same way even if I weren’t…well, maybe not AS much!

    I really, REALLY dislike Karl Lagerfeld, and can’t wait until he gives up the “throne”. He also is a very distasteful character – he recently said something that really got to me when describing the latest show (the Paris-Bombay Couture show) – he said (and I paraphrase) “When times are hard, women wear jewels…” – what a stupid thing to say!

  9. Best. Post. Ever.

    Very humorous AND enlightening. Now I want to learn more about the Wertheimers!

    I never thought that I would like Chanel perfumes, but I love them. Like others, I think it’s possible to love the art while disagreeing with the artist– but I don’t think that applies here, since she isn’t really the artist behind the work. At best, she’s the agent for the artist, or maybe the model in the advertisement. She’s no more the artist behind Chanel perfumes than Charlise Theron is the artist behind J’Adore. Right? (just my humble opinion)

    1. Aubrey, I think that you just made an EXCELLENT point. Perhaps Chanel would be the editor in this case, since she allegedly chose between the perfumer’s different options. There is not much about the Wertheimers online, except to say that they are also ardent equestrians.

  10. Really interesting post! I’ve only in the last few years learned about the connection between Coco and the Nazis – it’s funny how many people still seem to worship her despite this fact. I find it also interesting that they have someone like Karl Largerfeld at the helm, who seems to embody a similar style of hatred (albeit towards a different group) – that article that you linked to makes my blood boil.

    That being said I do love the Chanel perfumes, I agree with Aubrey about separating the product from the ‘person’ although from your enlightening article it sounds as though little goes to the Chanel family anyway.

    1. There is no Chanel family! Chanel never married and never reproduced. I wonder where her 10% goes now?
      I believe that Chanel the brand is in denial about just how bad Chanel the person’s legacy is. Similarly, I think that Lagerfeld’s despicable statements are common enough in the fashion industry that they also do not realize just how bad those comments are.

      1. hmm I wonder where it goes then…I assumed someone from her lineage must have received it (siblings or cousins perhaps?) who knows!

        Yes, I agree that the fashion industry seems to be full of those types of opinions. They’re all so damn smug…and I happily type this while stuffing my face with dark chocolate haha (take THAT Largerfeld!)

  11. She was a sourpuss wasn’t she?!

    I’ve heard a lot of stuff re Chanel and her Nazi affiliations and all-in-all she sounded like a rather un-pleasant and extremely ambitious woman.

    I absolutely love that Diana Vreeland quote, it’s so apt.

    Oh, and don’t get me started on Mr Lagerfeld. What. A. Douche.

  12. I don’t understand the worship or any business person. They were/are all jerks. That’s business. The Chanel worship has always confused me. Currently I’m reading Coco Chanel: An Intimate Life and not to spoil my review or anything, I find it boring. Every chapter is an in-depth history of a lover.It leaves me wondering did she “do” anything. And there is too much defending her words and actions. More to come 😉

    1. I’ve been having similar thoughts myself ever since Steve Jobs died. No one can deny his genius, but he’s never sounded terribly pleasant. His biography is very interesting, though- apparently he had a pretty severe eating disorder.
      Shame about the book being uninteresting! I guess it is meant to appeal to the romance novel crowd.

  13. Ari, this is re: Chanel’s 10%: years (can’t recall how many) before she died, she agreed to leave her part to the Wertheimers after her death and -in return- they would pay for all her expenses in the last years of her life, while she lived at the Ritz.

  14. Chanel is owned and controlled by Jews and always has been. The Wertheimer brothers worth over 7 billion dollars own Chanel. Their grandfather was far too clever for Coco and had 70 percent ownership (later 90 percent), while she had only 10 percent. Chanel is a Jewish run and and owned company.

    1. A slight correction, dear reader: Parfums Chanel is completely owned by the Wertheimers. I do not believe they have any control over the fashion, accessory, or beauty lines. (Just wanted to dispel any “JEWS RULE THE WORLD ELDERS OF ZIONNNNNN” type comments!)

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  17. Great post. She was a real jerk. She hated having to work with Nieman Marcus for the same reasons. I don’t know why they put up with her. I think they may have kept up the stupid fashion fantasy to sell more bags and clothes.

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  19. We should all be equally concerned that Jews financed Hitlers war. Jewish bankers actually financed the entire war and the transfer agreement was a huge part of it. The reason they financed it is because The Elders of Zion had worked out a deal to relocate jewish people to Palestine (Israel) a country that would be there own, but Jewish people were reluctant to go because they had prospered in Germany and lived quite well. So they would need a little prodding. It’s also fascinating that many of the major players were crypto jews such as Winston Churchill. All of Hitlers high ranking military brass were jewish, his photographer, his girlfriend, proven by DNA and his half sister. It really makes you wonder what was his motive??? I also read that he spent some time in Tavistock. Truth is stranger than fiction isn’t it.

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