A creative genius, visionary and socialite, Coco Chanel was also a private woman and devoted friend. Here we take a look back on her romance with the Principality, which really was love at first sight…
Coco Chanel and the Monaco scene
It all started in dire straits: in 1923, ballet impresario Serge Diaghilev put the production of ‘The Rite of Spring’ on hold due to a lack of funds. Gabrielle Chanel, known today by her alias, Coco, learnt of the misfortune and gave Diaghilev a cheque so he could continue with the venture. Her one condition? That her generosity should remain a complete secret.
Having become a silent patron of the Ballets Russes, Coco Chanel’s visits to the Principality became more and more frequent, and she gradually became more and more captivated by Monaco’s charm. She mixed with Cocteau, Reverdy, Dalí and even Visconti, and led a life as a socialite at the Hôtel de Paris Monte-Carlo.
When Coco Chanel brought fashion to Monaco
In 1924, Coco Chanel designed the costumes for the ballet ‘Le Train Bleu’, scored by Darius Milhaud, choreographed by Bronislava Nijinska and based on a story by Jean Cocteau. These costumes, which ranged from swimsuits to sportswear, paid tribute to the summertime and the fun of the seaside.
Ever the visionary, this is the story of how Coco Chanel launched “summer season” fashion, years before it really took off: a fashion that Monte-Carlo Société des Bains de Mer was to embrace in 1928 by building its ode to the Mediterranean: the Monte-Carlo Beach hotel.
Photo © Monte-Carlo SBM archives: Gabrielle Chanel and Christian Bérard
La Pausa: Coco Chanel’s haven of peace
In the same year of 1928, the fashion designer had a villa built high in the La Torraca area of Roquebrune-Cap-Martin, which she named La Pausa. It was a superb, Mediterranean-style home surrounded by a vast garden and century-old olive trees. In addition to her closest artist friends, she also received influential politicians there such as Winston Churchill.
Season after season, Coco Chanel left her mark on Monaco, and the essence of her lingers on at the Hôtel de Paris Monte-Carlo and the Salle Garnier at the Opéra de Monte-Carlo.
Photo © Monte-Carlo SBM archives: Gabrielle Chanel and Count Sala