Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Did You Know? A Wisp of Chanel No. 5

Soon after Chanel No. 5 was introduced, Coco Chanel partnered with two business men, the Wertheimer brothers, in order to produce quantities sufficient to meet the extraordinary demand.  She later became convinced that they had taken advantage of her in the deal and fought to get complete control of the company.  (This biographer, anyway, thinks that she was mistaken.  Certainly she made enormous sums money from the sale of the perfume while still in the partnership.)  Eventually the two Jewish brothers fled to Nazi-occupied France for the United States.

In a story worthy of James Bond, an American employee from one of the businesses that two brothers started in United States came to France on a secret mission to retrieve the chemical formula needed to produce Chanel No. 5 and to rescue Jacque, Pierre Wertheimer's son, who had escaped from a German prisoner of war camp and was in hiding in Bordeaux.  The resourceful young American was successful and returned to New York.  He ended up becoming an American spy.  After the war ended, he worked at the American company Chanel, Inc. for 25 years.  (Pages 153-155)

From Sleeping with the Enemy: Coco Chanel's Secret War by Hal Vaughan.  As the title implies, the book is primarily determined to prove Coco Chanel's collaboration with the Nazis in occupied France during World War II.  However, it does provide a brief biographical background of the rest of her life, a life which I found quite fascinating.

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