Over at The Gloss, Jennifer Wright has a fascinating round-up of Coco Chanel's activities in support of Nazism and fascism prior, during, and after World War II. Fascinating but also harrowing. And replete with anti-Semitic cartoons.
This ground is all pretty well-known to anyone familiar with Coco Chanel's life story — most notably, the designer's wartime activities and Nazi sympathies were explored in Hal Vaughan's excellent 2011 biography, Sleeping With The Enemy: Coco Chanel's Secret War. But it's still interesting to see the details of Chanel's collaboration with the Nazis — and her activities as a spy for the occupiers — laid out in chronological order online.
Chanel's conversion to fascism began in the early 1930s, when she began a relationship with the French illustrator and anti-Semite Paul Iribe. Chanel funded the 1933 relaunch of Iribe's magazine Le Temoin, which Wright accurately describes as "a violent, ultra-nationalist publication that said that France was being destroyed from within by Jews."
In one issue, Iribe even drew a naked Chanel — intended to personify France — being cradled in the arms of Adolf Hitler while conniving French Jews looked on. Only Hitler could save France from the great existential threat of international Jewry. Coco Chanel was apparently on board with this message. Click to enlarge.
After Iribe died and the war began, there were more Nazi lovers, and during the occupation of Paris, Chanel famously lived at the Ritz and dined with Hermann Göring and Joseph Goebbels. She spied for the Nazis and attempted to use the new Nazi laws to wrest control of the lucrative Chanel perfume brand from its owners, the French Jewish Wertheimer family. (She was ultimately unsuccessful because unbeknownst to her the Wertheimers had already turned over control of their business interests to a French Christian agent, Felix Amiot, before fleeing Paris. Amiot returned the company to the Wertheimers after the war, and they still own Chanel today.)
It may be a little absurd to expect to like a designer just because you like his or her work — Wright compares it to "expecting to love cows because you love hamburgers" — but the depth and tenacity of Chanel's fascism is, even after all these years, still pretty breathtaking.