Published by Berkley Books on June 25, 2019
Genres: Historical Fiction
FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher via Netgalley. All opinions are my own.
Today I am taking part in Berkley’s blog tour to promote Jeanne Mackin’s latest novel, The Last Collection. I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to share my thoughts on this wonderful book. Thanks so much to Lauren Horvath from Berkley for the invitation!
THE LAST COLLECTION Review
Jeanne Mackin’s The Last Collection is a fascinating historical fiction novel that explores the fierce rivalry between iconic fashion designers Elsa Schiaparelli and Coco Chanel. Set in Paris in the years leading up to World War II, The Last Collection drew me in right away with its lush descriptions of Paris and of the glamorous haute couture designs that Paris’ most well known ladies were wearing. I’m not even that big into fashion but the author so vividly describes the fashion scene in 1930s Paris that I felt like I had truly been transported there.
While the Paris setting is a huge draw, what really makes this such a captivating read is the rivalry between Schiaparelli and Chanel. Mackin does a wonderful job of portraying just how fierce this legendary rivalry really was, especially their attitude that Paris wasn’t big enough for both of them. Rather than be happy for each other’s success, Schiaparelli and Chanel truly hated one another and they each went out of their way to try to tear the other down. Just reading about the little things they would do to get under each other’s skin made this such an engrossing and entertaining read. Whether it was sending spies over to each other’s studios or throwing around downright catty insults about each other’s designs, both Schiaparelli and Chanel took great delight in keeping each other riled up.
In The Last Collection, this rivalry extends to Lily Sutter, a young American woman staying in Paris, who both designers end up befriending. The story is actually told from Lily’s perspective and it’s so fascinating to watch this rivalry play out through her eyes as she basically becomes a pawn in their game. Each designer wants to dress her in their garments but then send her over to the rival studio just to rub it in that she’s not wearing their clothing, etc.
Schiaparelli and Chanel were both strong, talented and successful business women, but that’s pretty much where the resemblance between them ended. They were polar opposites in many ways. When it came to fashion, Schiaparelli favors bright colors and whimsical designs, while Chanel favored classic and elegant designs. And when it came to politics, Schiaparelli was known to sympathize with Communists, while Chanel was known to associate with Nazis.
The politics were also a huge area of interest for me while I was reading The Last Collection. Mackin does a beautiful job weaving the politics of the day, including the rise of Hitler and the start of WWII, into her story and showing how these things impacted Paris, the fashion industry, as well as Schiaparelli and Chanel personally. I loved the added depth the politics lent to the story.
The Last Collection is an engaging read that I’d highly recommend to those who love couture and to readers who enjoy WWII historical fiction.
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.