Coco before Chanel

I watched a great movie over the weekend – Coco avant Chanel.

Audrey Tatou as Coco Chanel

The title is pretty self-explanatory, its obviously about the life of Coco Chanel (whose name was actually Gabrielle btw) and how she became the trailblazing designer and founder of THE brand of the world. 

I love fashion, and for me, Chanel is right at the top.  It beats every other fashion house in terms of elegance, sophistication and history.  It’s creations have always been timelessly classic, uber elegant and oh so chic (barring, of course, the latest few fiascos of full-body fur suits and what not). 

The movie depicts Coco’s rise to the top, but its not as cliched as it sounds.  She is an orphan who works as a seamstress during the day and sings at a cabaret bar/parlour with her sister to earn money, and even then she’s extremely picky about who to take it from and the line between singing and selling your body.  The song that she performs is extremely catchy and about a a little puppy called Coco who is lost: Qui qu’a vu Coco dans l’Trocadéro? (Who’s seen Coco in the Trocadero?) This is how Gabrielle earned the nickname of Coco.

She catches the eye of a baron by the name of Balson and it is through this liaison that she makes her entrance into the high society.  Balsan himself is a character who I, as a viewer, both despised, pitied and even empathised with; his multifacetedness is depicted brilliantly.  As much as she desperately wants to go to Paris and become rich and famous, she is equally disdainful of the opulence that she witnesses in the social circle of the creme de la creme.  Hers is a paradoxical nature, and though she knows she was destined for greatness, she’s also puzzled about where it is that she belongs or what her place in the world really is. 

She starts designing hats for the society women and begins to make a name for herself for having a minimalistic and chic approach to accessorizing.  This is emphasized immensely in the movie by the way Coco prefers to dress up in men’s trousers and vests instead of soft, pink and lacey gowns.  She refuses to wear a corset, preferring instead that the fabric fall naturally on the body, and she continuously mocks the other women under her breath for their excessive display of jewels and use of rich fabrics.

The movie also shows Coco’s affair with the English businessman Arthur Capel, and its tragic end was so beautifully depicted that anyone who’s ever had a love story cut short will definitely be able to relate.  It also offers an explanation for why Coco never married, as she herself says in the movie that she is not the type of woman to marry.  I think there’s a direct quote from her regarding why she never married a certain Duke, and she just said that there are many Duchesses but only one Chanel.  Sigh.  She was a woman ahead of her time and exasperatingly independent, truly deserving of the being the icon she became.

The REAL Coco in 1938, oozing with oomph

Audrey Tatou does a fantastic job at playing the role of Coco, she lives and breathes the character through every nuance and every gesture.  She embodies the essence of Coco, and bears a startling resemblance to the icon.  It may not be a subject of interest for many, but for anyone who has even the slightest inclination towards or passion for fashion, this movie is a must-watch.  There were so many instances that inspired me, and I was just in awe of it all.  The outfits are all amazing, and it’s really fascinating to watch the origins of the simplistic, demure and ultra chic designs that the fashion house of Chanel is so renowned for creating.

Note:  The movie is entirely in French so if you are flunet in the language, it’s a rela treat to watch.  Otherwise, keep your English subtitles on and the experience is just as gratifying.


Stuck in a travel-less rut

Le Louvre

I want to travel.  I really, really do!

It’s a sad fact that I haven’t really gone anywhere beyond my comfort zone in the past…7 years!

In 2003, I moved to Dubai with my family after living in Canada for 6 years.  Since then, I’ve only ever been in the UAE or Pakistan.  It’s gotten even worse since I started college in 2008.  Before, I used to live in Dubai and go to Pakistan for a vacation.  Now I live in Pakistan and go back home to Dubai for a vacation.  I left Canada 7 years ago, and still haven’t even gone back there for a visit, unlike the rest of my family. It’s like I am stuck in some sort of never-ending vicious cycle from which I can’t escape! 

Le Tour Eiffel

Le Tour Eiffel


Everyone around me is going places.  New York, Bangkok, Paris, London, Montreal, Istanbul, Kuala Lampur.  I am not asking for a world tour or even an all-expense trip to one of those cities.  I just want to get out of the Lahore-Dubai paradigm.  I am not trying to play the ‘poor little rich girl’ card but it’s just frustrating to hear about all these fantastic places but not have any hope of ever visiting them!  And no, telling me that I’ll have plenty of opportunities to travel after I am hitched is really NOT the answer.  Isn’t this the time to realy experience everything life has to offer?  At this age, I am literally at the cusp of adulthood; this is that short window of time that I have to make the most of before I get bogged down with responsibilities that revolve around a career and a mother-in-law. 

What would be truly ideal is if I could just do a semester or a summer term abroad somewhere.  I have always wanted to attend the Cambridge Summer School program but, realistically speaking, it’s a little more than what my poor daddy can afford, that’s IF he ever warms up to the idea of letting me go anywhere at all.  But there are plenty more programmes that are a lot cheaper but still hugely beneficial.  I think LUMS does a student-exchange program as well, but that’s with some university in Austria that I haven’t really heard of. 

I was actually checking out the summer term curriculum at AUP (American University of Paris).  It is heavenly!  First of all, its in PARIS (enough said).  Its the city of Louis Vuitton and where the Revolution went down, of sidewalk bistros and feather-light croissants, wine, cheese and escargots, of Chanel, the Louvre, and the Champs Elysees, of the Eiffel Tower, high fashion, and romantic architecture.  But I digress; its basically a 7 week program from June till mid-July and it’s got all these brilliant courses, and the thought of studying them just made me drool, as nerdy as that sounds.  There’s Intro to Islamic Art and Architecture, The History of Paris and a truly divine-sounding course on comparative literature called Modernist Experiments of Migration: 

Explores the work of Anglo-American modernist writers in Paris, concentrating on the works of Ernest Hemingway, Wyndham Lewis, Gertrude Stein, Djuna Barnes, Jean Rhys, and other writers. Relates their formal experimentation to the visual arts and to the psychic dynamics of exile: the experience of liberation from the constraints of one culture and an alienated relation to the new environment.

Sigh.  One day, I suppose.  One day, I shall go to Paris, show off my high-school French, do everything on this list ( )  and devour all that makes the city so magical.  One day, I’ll go to all the other places I have listed on a spreadsheet in my mind, thats keeps growing every week.  But I hope that day comes soon, because right now, the book of my life has only has a few chapters that even I wouldn’t be bothered to read.  One day, I’ll travel because like St Augustine wrote, “The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.”

The oh so Parisienne architecture