An American woman becomes entangled in the intense rivalry between iconic fashion designers Coco Chanel and Elsa Schiaparelli in this captivating novel from the acclaimed author of The Beautiful American.
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.
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The Last Collection by Jeanne Mackin is historical fiction that will make you fall in love with Paris and the fashion industry. Ms. Mackin’s words are as entrancing as the time and place she is writing about. She describes life in Paris with all the controversies in society before Germany invaded during WWII. The characters quarrel about love, fashion, politics around the world in the 1930‘s to 1950‘s. Their lives are touched by joy, tragedy, sorrow, betrayal and enduring love.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from Edelweiss. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own. I appreciate the opportunity and thank the author and publisher for allowing me to read, enjoy and review this book.
Historical fiction at its best
“The only thing worse than having people talk about you is not having them talk about you- Oscar Wilde”
As a plus sized woman, I would have never fit into either Chanel or Schiaparelli, but that has never stopped my love of all things couture, especially Chanel. In this book, the story of French couture houses before, during and after World War 2, focuses on the two doyennes of Fashion: the simple clean Chanel and the harlequinesque Schiaparelli, how the rules the fashion world despite their politics and the rivalry. It trickled down from these two powerhouses to the women they designed for. One would never be caught in the other’s designs in a world that sized you up based on how you looked. Jeanne Mackin tells this story through womens’ eyes; through one particular artist’s eyes, having her befriend both rivals. However, Lily Sutter is also in love with Paris, who becomes as much a rival for her attention as well as another character in the book.
It seems most historical fiction these days is sharply focused on war stories, as if they aren’t captured in some form, we might lose them. Even without Paris, “The Last Collection” sparkles as much as a glass flute of champagne. This was a library loan, but there will come a time where this book will hold pride of place in my small collection of Chanel books. Highly readable and recommended 5/5