Monday, July 8, 2019

Review: The Last Collection: A Novel of Elsa Schiaparelli and Coco Chanel by Jeanne Mackin

Title: The Last Collection: A Novel of Elsa Schiaparelli and Coco Chanel 
Author: Jeanne Mackin
Format: eBook
Publisher: Berkley Books
Publish Date: June 25, 2019
Source: Publisher

What's the Story?:

From "Paris, 1938. Coco Chanel and Elsa Schiaparelli are fighting for recognition as the most successful and influential fashion designer in France, and their rivalry is already legendary. They oppose each other at every turn, in both their politics and their designs: Chanel's are classic, elegant, and practical; Schiaparelli's bold, experimental, and surreal.

When Lily Sutter, a recently widowed young American teacher, visits her brother, Charlie, in Paris, he insists on buying her a couture dress--a Chanel. Lily, however, prefers a Schiaparelli. Charlie's beautiful and socially prominent girlfriend soon begins wearing Schiaparelli's designs as well, and much of Paris follows in her footsteps.

Schiaparelli offers budding artist Lily a job at her store, and Lily finds herself increasingly involved with Schiaparelli and Chanel's personal war. Their fierce competition reaches new and dangerous heights as the Nazis and the looming threat of World War II bear down on Paris."

My Two Cents: 

"The Last Collection" is the story of the storied rivalry between fashion powerhouses, Elsa Schiaparelli and Coco Chanel. In Paris in the 1930s, they make some of the most desired clothes for the fashion elite. Chanel's designs are structured and classic. Schiaparelli's are bold and avant garde. Our main character, Lily, finds herself in Paris newly-widowed and ends up taking a job in Schiap's (as she is known to her friends) store so she has a first row seat to just how fevered the rivalry between Elsa and Coco will get.

I'm not exactly what you would call fashion-forward but I feel like I've read and know much more about Coco Chanel so it was nice to have some familiarity already there while getting to know Schiap. What a fascinating person! I loved reading about all of her designs that made heads turn during a time when fashion was reaching new heights as the world was about to be turned upside down by World War II. At her base, Schiap still believes herself to be an artist above everything else. I loved learning about her in this book and I had to take a look at some of her designs myself (look up her skeleton dress - it is wild!).

Lily is a great character in her own right. I felt for her - she was deeply in love with her husband and going to Paris was initially supposed to be an escape from her sadness. As she throws herself into her work as an artist, she begins to heal and to see that she can make a new life for herself without forgetting her past.

I really enjoyed the writing of the story. This was a well-done book and I loved the political undertones in the book. After all, fashion is political. I thought the historical detail in the book was fantastic. I loved seeing Paris during this quickly changing time period. This was a great pick!


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