Paris may be the spiritual home of Chanel, but the inimitable French maison is beloved the world over. Here, in an exclusive story for AnOthermag.com, photographer Marcello Arena captures Elena – the grandmother of AnOther Magazine’s fashion assistant Nicola Neri – and her four sisters on the streets of Milan. Wearing Chanel’s Autumn/Winter 2019 collection – the final by the late Karl Lagerfeld – alongside their own treasured pieces, the five women open up about their love of Chanel, and what it means to dress elegantly.
“The first piece of Chanel I owned was a navy tailleur, both the skirt and the blazer had a white hem. To me, Chanel represents a sober, classic and elegant style – never too much or too elaborate. An elegant garment adapts to the silhouette of the wearer and is made of a good quality fabric, with curated finishings and linings. I remember some long dresses I used to wear when I was a teenager. The seamstress who lived next door used to make them for me, but after a while I realised her finishings weren’t that good and the dresses weren’t fitting correctly. That’s when I started developing my interest in fashion, which led me to working as a seamstress and teaching what I knew to my younger sister Mariuccia. Today, at 88 years old, I wear comfortable trousers matched to a knitted cardigan.”
“To me Chanel means perfection, fantasy and classicism. The first Chanel piece I ever wore was a long tweed coat; it had a squared pattern in white, red with some hints of pink and ice blue – the buttons were covered with the same fabric and it had a little fringing at the hems. The first Chanel accessory I wore and my favourite is the pink bum bag I’m wearing in the photos we took! My advice for a woman getting dressed in the morning would be to wear a dress, a tailleur, or a skirt and a shirt. Depending on the season, the sleeve should be long or short. Elegance means dressing perfectly, but still honest to your taste and beliefs.”
“Chanel is my favourite maison of all time – only joined later by Armani – I loved the unmistakable style both of the garments and accessories. The first thing I owned was in the 1980s, the classic tailleur and the quilted bag with the chain. Back in the days, everyone used to wear more or less the same. Today it appears there aren’t any more rules and everyone wears what they want. Coco Chanel used to say: ‘Before you leave the house, look in the mirror and take one thing off.’ Following her advice today, it might happen that someone would walk out naked!”
“My first Chanel piece was a pink tweed tailleur with skirt. I wore it many times, but sadly I gave it away a long time ago. I used to wear pleated skirts with classic patterns and plain shirts. Now I wear mostly trousers, but still wear some of the shirts I used to wear 30 or 40 years ago. I used to work in a wool factory and had easy access to new fabrics. My sister Mariuccia would make clothes for all of us and we would change clothes and style more often. Being elegant is not being excessive. Elegant people shouldn’t make heads turn on the street.”
“When I was a teenager I used to wear skirts, but now I wear more trousers. I also wear a lot of jackets, trousers and shirts of my late husband. The first thing I do when I’m getting dressed in the morning is make the sign of the cross and say a little prayer.”
Hair: Giovanni Iovine at Julian Watson Agency using Cotril. Make-up: Camilla Romagnoli using Chanel. Talents: Angela, Elena, Mariuccia, Rachele and Teresina. Photographic assistants: Umano Teodori.