Coco Chanel is known for a great many things in the world of fashion- popularizing the suntan, for instance, or her many quotes on elegance and wardrobe.
Perhaps a lesser known (although still not entirely buried) facet of the fashion mogul’s life is her long, wartime relationship with German military intelligence officer Baron Hans Gunther von Dincklage. Her mere involvement with Dincklage interfered with her popularity during the war and after among people within the French fashion industry, but a new book by Hal Vaughn, Sleeping with the Enemy: Coco Chanel’s Secret War, suggests that her involvement stretched far beyond her relationship with the intelligence officer.
The Los Angeles Times excerpted an interview with Vaughn in which the author describes his shock in discovering what he says is new information about Chanel’s wartime activities:
“I was looking for something else and I come across this document saying ‘Chanel is a Nazi agent, her number is blah, blah, blah and her pseudonym is Westminster,’ I look at this again and I say, ‘What the hell is this?’ I couldn’t believe my eyes!
“Then I really started hunting through all of the archives, in the United States, in London, in Berlin and in Rome and I come across not one, but 20, 30, 40 absolutely solid archival materials on Chanel and her lover, Baron Hans Gunther von Dincklage, who was a professional Abwehr spy.”
The House of Chanel, the brand that bears Chanel’s name, was not impressed by the new biographical work- they cited nearly 60 other Chanel books and urged fans to “consult some of the more serious ones.”