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.