It’s the guiding principle that would dominate Chanel’s life’s work, says Arzalluz. “The notion of comfort and ease and liberty of movement was unheard of in fashion until then, and especially in a world of haute couture which she inscribed herself in,” Arzalluz says. Which is why, when Christian Dior swept the fashion world in 1947 with his New Look collection, bringing back narrowed waists, corsets, full voluminous skirts and accentuated busts, Chanel, at the age of 71, devised a comeback. “Dior doesn’t dress women, he upholsters them,” she famously said of the designer who had become her rival.
The tweed suit that would launch her comeback collection elicited a lukewarm reception at best. It wasn’t novel enough for the Parisian fashion press, and she was criticised for being frozen in time. But Chanel knew her audience. Nearly 70 years later, the suit remains an enduring classic in womenswear, and an indelible image of the couturière herself, who wore her own designs and was her own brand ambassador – the original influencer, you could say.