A chance New Year’s Day conversation at the gym with fashion friend, Sheri, about her Chanel “Boy” bag, got me tumbling down yet another fashion rabbit hole. Down & down I fell, exploring the origins of the house’s “Boy” bag & “Boy” products, & the great backstories behind them.
When Karl Lagerfeld was appointed Creative Director of Chanel in 1983, he was charged with blowing the dust off the legendary house & to make it relevant again. “The Kaiser” took stock, & changed everything- in a good way, as is so often heard “as only Karl could”. His success can be attributed to his perfectly meshing the house’s iconic past with the present to create new, exciting products that had consumers begging for more, season after season.
One of Karl’s biggest hits was the “Boy” bag, that he Introduced in 2011 as part of the Chanel Fall/Winter collection. The “Boy” paid homage to the love of Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel’s life, “Boy” Capel.
When he introduced the bag, Karl Lagerfeld stated, “Chanel used men’s underwear to make dresses; she had this boyish attitude, in fact, it is the very spirit of Chanel. She got it from Boy Capel, the great love of her life, which, incidentally, explains why the new bag is called the Boy Chanel.”
SO, who is “Boy” Capel, & how did he manage to become such an important part of the house of Chanel’s DNA?
Captain Arthur Edward “Boy” Capel was a friend of Etienne Balsan, who was Coco’s lover at the time she & Boy met. Boy was a self-made man AND he was also an accomplished polo player. He fell in love with Coco & began a long-term affair with her in 1909 that ended when he died in 1919, in an automobile accident, tragically, on his way to see Coco. Although the pair spent time together at fashionable resorts such as Deauville, Boy was never fully faithful to Chanel.
Capel financed Chanel’s first shops & his own clothing style, his blazers in particular, inspired some of Coco’s most iconic looks for Chanel. Boy & Coco are both long gone, but Boy’s legacy continues today, over a century since his passing.
If the Boy Bag proves a bit of a stretch, there are other ways to partake of the iconic love affair on a far more modest budget. I snapped up the perfect sheet nude lipstick, aptly named “Boy” in the rouge coco gloss, #54. It’s the only lipstick I use these days. Next on my list are the two “Boy” polishes, one light, & one dark. Do you have a favorite “Boy” Chanel product? Let me know…
-Vivian Kelly ( @thefashionhistorian )