The Last Collection
by Jeanne Mackin
GENRE: Historical Romance
An American woman becomes entangled in the intense rivalry between iconic fashion designers Coco Chanel and Elsa Schiaparelli in this captivating novel from the acclaimed author of The Beautiful American.
Paris, 1938. Coco Chanel and Elsa Schiaparelli are fighting for recognition as the most successful and influential fashion designer in France, and their rivalry is already legendary. They oppose each other at every turn, in both their politics and their designs: Chanel’s are classic, elegant, and practical; Schiaparelli’s bold, experimental, and surreal.
When Lily Sutter, a recently widowed young American teacher, visits her brother, Charlie, in Paris, he insists on buying her a couture dress—a Chanel. Lily, however, prefers a Schiaparelli. Charlie’s beautiful and socially prominent girlfriend soon begins wearing Schiaparelli’s designs as well, and much of Paris follows in her footsteps.
Schiaparelli offers budding artist Lily a job at her store, and Lily finds herself increasingly involved with Schiaparelli and Chanel’s personal war. Their fierce competition reaches new and dangerous heights as the Nazis and the looming threat of World War II bear down on Paris.
“Sophisticated couture wars and looming world wars take center stage in Mackin’s latest, with a plot that buzzes with love triangles and political intrigue. A gorgeous meditation on art, fashion, and heartbreak. Stunning.”
–Fiona Davis, national bestselling author of The Masterpiece
“Exquisitely melding world politics and high fashion, THE LAST COLLECTION is a smart, witty, heartfelt, and riveting look at the infamous rivalry between Coco Chanel and Elsa Schiaparelli set against a gripping period in history. Mackin’s powerful novel brings these characters to life and transports the reader, juxtaposing both the gaiety and tension of Paris on the brink of war. As elegant and captivating as the designs depicted in the novel, THE LAST COLLECTION is the perfect read for both historical fiction lovers and fashion aficionados. Simply stunning.”
–Chanel Cleeton, USA Today bestselling author of Next Year in Havana
“A wonderful story of two intensely creative women, their vibrant joie de vivre, and backbiting competition played out against the increasingly ominous threat of the Nazi invasion of Paris. Seamless research makes every character leap to life and kept me totally engaged from beginning to end.
–Shelley Noble, New York Times bestselling author of Lighthouse Beach
“A vibrant portrait of two designers cut from very different cloth, Jeanne Mackin’s THE LAST COLLECTION pits bold Coco Chanel and colorful Elsa Schiaparelli against each other in a fiery feud even as the ominous clouds of World War II darken the horizon. A captivating read!”
–Stephanie Marie Thornton, author of American Princess
“As Hitler and the Nazis gather strength and the world braces for war, Elsa Schiaparelli and Coco Chanel, whose politics differ as much as their couture, wage a war of their own. Lily Sutter, the woman who finds herself in the middle of their feud, has a battle of her own as she struggles to make a new start amidst extreme grief and loss. From New York to Paris, Jeanne Mackin takes the reader on an enthralling journey, complete with such vivid descriptions of the clothing, you can practically see them on the page. Beautifully rendered and meticulously researched, THE LAST COLLECTION is a must read.”
–Renée Rosen, author of Park Avenue Summer
At the ball that night there were people whose faces I recognized, a blur of memory from my first evening in Paris at the Ritz, and many more people whom I didn’t recognize at all, men with military posture, women covered with jewels, men in dresses, women in tuxedos, ingénues in pastel gowns. And Charlie and Ania, beautiful Charlie and Ania, so immersed in each other’s gaze they could have been alone rather than dancing through crowded rooms.
…Coco arrived around eleven, in a diaphanous green gown that looked like fern fronds moving in a breeze when she moved. It was Coco, blending into nature, but still Coco.
Schiap arrived soon after, dressed, as she had promised, as a tree, covered in a rough brown cloth that looked like tree bark, with branches extending from her arms and the crown of her head. Several cloth and feather birds perched on her shoulders. Whimsical, humorous, always-make-it-look easy Schiap. Schiap got the louder applause when she made her entrance, and I saw Coco’s smile fade.
Who knew what was going through Coco’s mid that evening? Perhaps she had dreamed the night before of the orphanage, the father who had abandoned her and the mother who had died.
Pehaps she wasn’t thinking at all but only reacting, the way dry wood reacts when a match is put to it.
The Emotions of Color
When I began working on this novel about two incredible women, the fashion divas Elsa Schiaparelli and Coco Chanel, and their infamous rival in Paris just before World War II, I knew that much in the novel would be about color, and how we react to it. I was delighted when one reader contacted me to say I must be an artist, to have written about color with such strong emotional responses.
Far from it! I am verbal rather than visual, and I am constantly challenging myself to experience the world through my all my senses and abilities…including color. What color is the feeling of happiness? When we are in love, does our perception of color change? I remember when I was young and passionately in love for the first time, whenever that boy came into a room, colors brightened. And when he left a room, the colors looked and felt dusted with grey to me. In The Last Collection – A Novel of Elsa Schiaparelli and Coco Chanel, color becomes for me one of the most important aspects of fashion and design. Color, and the use of it in clothing, was one of the most significant differences between Elsa and Coco. Chanel was famous for her neutral pallet, blacks and whites and beiges. Elsa became famous for her use of bright colors and that brightest color of all, Shocking Pink, which she made popular.
Color. How much weaker would our emotions be, if we could not enjoy reds and greens and blues, and all the shades? If we couldn’t enjoy the color of our beloved’s eyes, and remember the color of his favorite sweater? During World War II, the Parisians had to work hard, and sometimes subversively, to keep their world from turning into nothing more than the menacing colors of military uniforms. All of that was what I worked with in this novel. Color, and emotion, history. Trauma and recovery. Happiness and love lost, and then refound. I hope you enjoy my novel!
AUTHOR Bio and Links:
Jeanne Mackin ‘s latest novel, The Last Collection, A Novel of Elsa Schiaparelli and Coco Chanel takes the reader to Paris, just before world war II, and the intense, dangerous rivalry between the two queens of fashion. Her previous novels include A Lady of Good Family, the award winning The Beautiful American, The Sweet By and By, Dreams of Empire, The Queen’s War, and The Frenchwoman.
Her historical fictions explore the lives of strong women who change their worlds…because we know the world always needs a lot of change! She has worked all the traditional ‘writers’ jobs’ from waitressing to hotel maid, anything that would leave her a few hours each morning for writing. Most recently, she taught creative writing at the graduate level. She has traveled widely, in Europe and the Middle East and can think of no happier moment than sitting in a Paris café, drinking coffee or a Pernod, and simply watching, while scribbling in a notebook.
Penguin Random House – https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/531859/the-last-collection-by-jeanne-mackin/
Amazon – https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07H71Q5FQ/ref=dp-kindle-redirect
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