For those of you who regularly follow our blog you will know that each time I am struck down with “wanderlust” I try and share my escapades with you by seeking out a local cosmetic or fragrance, a ritual or even a celebrity associated with my chosen port of call.
Last week was no exception when I seized a couple of days off and headed for the Normandy coast. I would be staying in the picturesque port of Honfleur but no mini-break to the Normandy coast would be complete without a rapid stop over in Trouville and Deauville, twin resorts separated by a bridge. I say a rapid stop over because at this time of the year at the height of the summer season, both are heaving with tourists although Trouville for which I hold a personal preference for being more understated remains “bearable”.
However, today it’s Deauville that I’m going to be talking about and how it became the Saint Tropez of the Channel Coast.
Its appeal has remained undimmed since the 1860s, when the Duke of Morny, politician, financier, half brother of Napoleon III and man about town, first looked across from already popular Trouville at Deauville’s wide, empty sands and persuaded three friends to join him in creating an exclusive enclave of villas, plus a racecourse and a train link to Paris.
Around 1910 it was further embellished with a casino, one of the most beautiful in Europe; the grand hotels Normandy and Royal; and a second racecourse; and – in the Twenties – with its famous boardwalk, the Promenade des Planches.
It was around this time that a certain Gabrielle Chanel alias Coco Chanel the famous seamstress opened her first boutique in Deauville in 1913 thus paving her way to international stardom.
Coco was passionately in love with a young Englishman, « Boy » Arthur Capel, a rich businessman and Deaville’s champion polo player and as she tagged along with him she developed her own unique and simple style – usually a man’s suit, no jewels, no frills or flowers and an open-neck shirt. Many saw this as a sign of negligence but it was the very fact that she looked like none other that made her famous!
We can also thank Coco Chanel for making sun-tanning fashionable. Tanned skin up to then was associated with the working class but with Gabrielle everything was possible and suddenly sun-kissed skin became a status symbol for the rich and idle!
Incapable of doing nothing like many of her contemporaries, Gabrielle rented a small shop and started selling hats that were soon twinned with jackets, canvas skirts and of course the inimitable striped sailor top.
The resort inspired her and she was quick to notice that nobody “understood” the maritime lifestyle better than the local fishermen. She rapidly adapted the comfortable striped jersey tops for women and coordinated then with canvas sailor pants to create a casual, easy and modern look.
The famous “Deauville Beige” favoured by Gabrielle mirrors the colour of wet Deauville sand and the classic Chanel “signature” quilted bag was inspired by the saddlecloths used by the jockeys at the local hippodrome.
Coco Chanel truly captured the essence of Deauville and several years later it as once again in Deauville in 1921 that she met with investors and convinced them to lend her the capital to create and launch her first perfume … the iconic Chanel N° 5.
And of course, the … rest is history!