Simplicity redefines fashion

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 05 July, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 05 July, 2009, 12:00am

Loosely based on the biography L'Irreguliere (The Nonconformist) by Edmonde Charles-Roux, a close friend of Gabrielle 'Coco' Chanel, Coco Before Chanel focuses on the fashion icon's early years. The queen of timeless style is portrayed by Audrey Tautou, star of Amelie and The Da Vinci Code.

Born into a poor family, Chanel's father abandons her when her mother dies, leaving her in a convent where she learns how to sew. Chanel uses that skill, and her observations of life and the men she met, to inspire a passion for fashion and overcome her lack of social standing.

Chanel earns the name 'Coco' while singing in a cabaret club, where she catches the eye of high society gent Etienne Balsan (Zenoit Poelvoorde). He offers her the opportunities she needs to launch her career and she moves into his country estate. With little money or clothing, she adapts Balsan's outfits for herself.

Her nonconformist, elegant approach to women's tailoring draws the attention of Balsan's friend Arthur Capel (Alessandro Nivola), an Englishman who becomes the love of her life. He provides the money for Chanel to set up a boutique. Her 'less is more' approach becomes the talk of Paris, and revolutionises the French fashion world where curves, corsets and wild extravagance were all the rage.

The tale of the creator of the little black dress and Chanel No. 5, Coco Before Chanel is a tantalising rags-to-riches story.