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Lesson #5: Take A Second Chance
During the war, Chanel had begun a relationship with Hans Gunther von Dincklage, a German Nazi officer who was 13 years younger than her. It was von Dincklage who protected Chanel at the Ritz Paris. But, once the war was over, Chanel found that her difficulties were just beginning. Her reputation in the publicís eye was destroyed because of her association with the Nazis. Chanel believed that her career as a designer had effectively come to an end.
She was 56 years old and she was giving up. Relying primarily on the continuing sales of her perfume as her income, Chanel became a recluse and tried as hard as possible to stay out of the public eye. For fifteen years, the world saw little of Chanel and, except for her name lining the shelves of perfume departments she had faded into the background.
It was in 1954 when Chanel decided that she wanted to make a comeback. Numerous reasons are given for her return; Chanel wanted to stop the rise of Christian Dior, who was bringing women back to an era of tight, restricting clothing; sales from her perfume were falling; and she was just plain bored.
Regardless, Chanel was now in her seventies and would be competing against a fresh, young crop of designers. Could she handle the challenge? She believed so and armed with that faith in herself, Chanel set out to find the financing she needed, assemble her staff, and find the fabrics and equipment she required to reinvigorate her company. She was, in essence, starting all over again.
In 1954, Chanel launched her first comeback collection but it was not the success she had envisioned. European fashion critics dismissed her line as the same old thing and believed Chanel had passed her prime. America, on the other hand, embraced her new collection and within three seasons, Chanel had regained her position atop the fashion industry. She gave her classic Chanel suit a makeover, along with her handbags, jewelry and shows. Soon, Chanel had become a status symbol for a brand new generation of wealthy women and celebrities.
She had disappeared from the industry for over 15 years. When Chanel returned, she had to fight not only a tarnished reputation but now her younger competition as well. She had been written off and was considered past her prime, but Chanel persevered to regain her fashion crown. Chanel knew she had a fresh wave of ideas and energy coming to her and she set out to claim her second chance to use them.
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