“Coco Chanel, famed fashion designer & feminine icon, was a homophobe, an anti-Semite & a Nazi collaborator.”

Via Waylon Lewis
on May 14, 2013
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“Coco Chanel, famed fashion designer and feminine icon, was a homophobe, an anti-Semite & a Nazi collaborator.”

Does it matter? “A lot of people in this world don’t want the iconic figure of Gabrielle Coco Chanel, one of France’s great cultural idols, destroyed. This is definitely something that a lot of people would have preferred to put aside, to forget, to just go on selling Chanel scarves and jewelry.”

For more: “Chanel and the Nazis: what Coco Avant Chanel and other films don’t tell you”. The Times (London)

Coco Chanel, she of Audrey Tatou’s sad and limpid eyes, was what was known post WW2 as a “horizontal collaborator.”

To be fair, many, many (even progressive) folks back then had all kinds of casually prejudiced attitudes. Via Reddit: “I don’t mean to be contrarian, but wasn’t everybody born in 1883 a homophobe and an antisemite?” Read the rest of the discussion at Reddit, here.

That said, to be an active Nazi collaborator (she tried to get the Nazis to help steal Chanel No. 5 from its Jewish owners during wartime) goes well beyond this.chanel nazi

Full story at Wikipedia: read it up, here.


So was Hugo Boss.


Not to mention, and far more recently, Mr. John Galliano.

Here’s our kind of response to prejudice, from back then, via J.R.R. Tolkien.


About Waylon Lewis

Waylon Lewis, founder of elephant magazine, now elephantjournal.com & host of Walk the Talk Show with Waylon Lewis, is a 1st generation American Buddhist “Dharma Brat." Voted #1 in U.S. on twitter for #green two years running, Changemaker & Eco Ambassador by Treehugger, Green Hero by Discovery’s Planet Green, Best (!) Shameless Self-Promoter at Westword's Web Awards, Prominent Buddhist by Shambhala Sun, & 100 Most Influential People in Health & Fitness 2011 by "Greatist", Waylon is a mediocre climber, lazy yogi, 365-day bicycle commuter & best friend to Redford (his rescue hound). His aim: to bring the good news re: "the mindful life" beyond the choir & to all those who didn't know they gave a care. elephantjournal.com | His first book, Things I would like to do with You, is now available.


12 Responses to ““Coco Chanel, famed fashion designer & feminine icon, was a homophobe, an anti-Semite & a Nazi collaborator.””

  1. kimberlylowriter says:

    I may be a little off-topic but I think examples like these prove that someone can be a rotten person yet be a talented artist, fashion designer or businesswoman like Ms. Chanel. The other day there was a heated debate over a post written about a yoga photography book "inspired" by "50 Shades of Grey". A rebuttal written by the friend of the author cited that the author was a good person, was planning to give part of any profits to charity, etc., and I was surprised that no one said that has no basis on whether or not a piece of art is "good" or not. (Granted, that is subjective.) Honestly, good people create crap all the time and sometimes horrible people put out good things.

  2. Padma Kadag says:


  3. kimberly lo says:

    I was pointing out that an argument can be made that the merits of a piece art stands on its own. You shouldn't assume anything about the character of the creator based on the product.

  4. kimberly lo says:

    Chanel was a brilliant designer and businesswoman but a not so great person. However, her innovations changed how women dress.

  5. Padma Kadag says:

    Kimberly…my response was directed at Waylon's article. Your comment is absoutely correct.

  6. Natalie Baginski says:

    i saw some of hitler's paintings on a special on CBS Sunday morning and I LOVED them. shame about the genocide. the path of action is "unfathomable" in regard to an individual human life and how we move through time collectively. i find at this point a "hmmm…that's interesting" or a nod or a shrug is sufficient enough a reaction to just about anything.

  7. Nic says:

    I think it does matter about what a person has done in the past. You have brought up a sensitive topic here, one that I was certainly not aware of. Prejudice is one of the ugliest traits in a human being as far as I am concerned. Any positive association with Hitler is not good.

    Ms Chanel may have been talented but was she a "good human being'?

  8. kimberlylowriter says:

    Oh, no worries! I can ramble at times and not make a clear point! 🙂

  9. kimberlylowriter says:

    Henry Ford was a notorious anti-Semite who praised Hitler's actions. A lot of well-known and unknown people thought Hitler was great until after WWII.

    I just cannot fathom anyone endorsing or condoning racism of any sort much less genocide. Yikes!

    However, it always seems like a common problem-i.e., the talented "monster". Personally, I love Woody Allen's films though the thought of what he did to Mia Farrow and their family makes me turn green. I refuse to pay money to see Roman Polanski's movies even though he is a great film maker. I am not saying anyone should follow my example, but I just cannot with him given the seriousness of his crime and him fleeing the US.

  10. elephantjournal says:


    Many, many folks were anti-semitic, then. It was mainstream, as was prejudice against blacks, Catholics, gay…but Chanel's actions go well beyond prejudice, into active collaboration, romance, actions.

  11. elephantjournal says:

    Agree, as far as art goes. That said, Padma, or whoever you are, I'm surprised at you. The notion of Dharma Art is that our art is our mind, our practice, our path—it is an expression of our being, not separate from it. It is not merely display.

    But, yes, we all have faults, and strengths, and she clearly was rich in both.

  12. Lawrence says:

    Maybe, but that's not even Coco Chanel in the picture, it's the Duke and Duchess of Windsor.