Paris Night Walks with Coco Chanel

Coco Chanel (1883 - 1971)




Coco Chanel

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Coco Chanel (1883 - 1971)
Iconic fashion designer.
Friend of Dmitri Romanov and of Aimée Lopes de Sottomajor / Aimée de Heeren.
Night visitor of Cremerie de Paris
Helped to buy Cremerie de Paris N°1


return - A Start with nothing
Coco Chanel discovers Cremerie de Paris 1/4



Chanel meeting Aimée Lopes de Sotto Maior

1938 Coco Chanel met Aimee Lopes

World War II is on the way.
Brazil send a secret agent,
Aimée Lopes de Sotto Maior.
Already send to Berlin in 1934
she had to find out more of what was going on in Europe.
Fluent in English, French, Italian with a good level of German
she worked directly for the President of her country,
Getulio Vargas (1882 -1954).

Vargas hesitated whether Brazil should allie
with or againts Germany.
He wanted Aimées advise.

As her countries top secret agent
on direct mssion for the President
Aimée had "unlimited pocket money"
so she could navigate in the "Hi Society" like an icon.



Aimée arrived in Paris like a bombshell.
Everybody wanted to know this captivating woman.
Coco Chanel did everything to draw her attention.

Aimée was so amazingly beautiful people were speachless.


But
"drama after drama"
not only Coco Chanel
but also the Duke of Westminster fell in Love ...

Bendor, the 2nd Duke of Westminster,
the richest man in England
famous for extravagant "cadeaux"
didn't stop sending outrageous presents to Aimée.

French crown-jewels hunted by specially hired jewlery agents for Aimée
pearls from the Monaco or Paris Cartier store for Chanel.

Gabrielle was furious.



Joseph Patrick Kennedy
1939 the following summer Aimée spends some time on the côte d'Azur
At a reception in the Hotel du Cap
she runs into an Americain
that was much younger than everybody else she had met in France,
Joseph Patrick Kennedy Jr (1915-1944).
She had already met him in a reception in London where his father
worked as the US ambassador.

Aimée who was not interested in Chanels boyfriend,
the old Duke of Westminster (1879 - 1953)
nor any European she had to meet for her secret agent work
she fell in Love with the young American.

From the German Agent Helmuth James von Moltke
Aimée got many confidential information about the German regime
which she passed on to Vargas.
Her mission accomplished,
Paris became to dangerous.
Aimée moved on to New York, Chanel looses contact.





years go by ....









Reconsiliation with Aimée

1953  july 19 Bendor, the 2nd Duke of Westminster dies.
Both Ladies, Gabrielle and Aimée are sad.
There is nobody as extravagant left
offering them such extraordinary presents.

1954 Coco Chanel whose role during WW II was very controversial
returned from her Swiss exile in Lausanne.
Chanel reconsiliated with her worst ennemy and perfume associate,
Pierre Wertheimer.
He financed her comeback.



71 years old Chanel reopens her fashion house.

February 5 the first post-war collection is launched.
The French press tears her apart, the Americans buy her collection.

Marie Helène Arnaud
Marie Hélène Arnaud becomes her favorite model.
Her other models are Ghislaine Arsac, Suzy Parker, Odile de Cröy, Paule Rizzo,
Mimi d’Arcangues, Gisèle Rosenthal and Paule de Mérindol.

1960 The friendship and work relation with Marie Helene Arnaud
comes to an end.

1960 Reconnecting with Aimée Lopes de Sotto Maior  / Aimée de Heeren
After the separation with her model Marie Helène Arnaud
Chanel feels even more lonely.

"Mademoiselle" had no husband, no children,
nobody to spend christmas eve
many of her friends had already died.
Most of her new friends had a work-based relation with her.


Aimée Lopez de Sottomajor / AImée de Heeren
One day she runs into the mysterious Aimée Lopes
she hasn't seen for twenty years.
Aimée Lopes de Sotto Maior now called Aimée de Heeren
is still outrageously beautiful.

Chanel is fascinated by Aimées joy of life
and her independance.
Forgotten the jealousies around Bendor's presents.


Aimée is happy to have someone with whom she can share
souvenirs about old friends that have left this world,
in particular Bendor and the glamorous
Dmitri Romanov

Also she has compassion for Chanels extreme loneliness.
Aimée feels a little responsible to have
stoped Bendor to marry Mademoiselle Chanel.

When Chanel was asked why she had not married
she used to answer "there are several Duchesses of Westminster,
but only one Coco Chanel."

The truth is that Chanel dreamed to have had some kind of a family
just it had not worked out for her.

The friendship of the two woman is back...



When Chanel cannot sleep ...
Nightwalks through Paris


escalier d'honneur de la Cremerie de Paris
Aimée lives in between New York, Palm Beach, Biarritz and Paris.
Paris is the only place where she does not have her own house,
the Hotel Meurice is her Parisian address.

When Chanel cannot sleep she calls the Meurice to find out if  Madame de Heeren
is already back. "Désole, Madame n'est pas encore rentrée"
is the usual answer of the night concierge
The "partygirl" Aimée is invited everywhere and never comes home very early
but as soon as she gets the message that Mademoiselle Chanel has called
she calls back no matter the time.

This is the beginning of their "Paris Night Walks".
20 min later they meet.
The Meurice and the Ritz are very close
Aimée can wait to share her impressions of the last party
and Gabrielle who does not go out any more
is dying to her all what has happened.

Sometimes Salvador Dali,also living at the Meurice,
wanted to join them,
but he was too excentric for Aimée
and anyways the Ladys wanted to be on their own
just sharing each others company.

The usual destination of their walks went along rue Saint Honoré
in the direction of the Les Halles foodmarket open all night.
After a drink at the Maison Rouge
they went to Cremerie de Paris
waiting a moment for the old old door of 9 rue des Déchargeurs to open
(due to the busy activity of the foodmarket there is always someone going in and out).



Walking into the long long private courtyard
to see the magic N°5 staircase Chanel had discovered in her youth with Dmitri Romanov
Sitting at the top of the staircase old souvenirs came back to memory....




Baby Sitting
at the same time - 1970 Germany

Carl Solms
From time to time the mother of the young boy in the picture
asked her husband's uncle, the older man in the picture,
to come as a "baby sitter".
The old man Carl Solms (1903-2003) has a wonderful attitude with children.
He tells them captivating, never ending stories.

Many of the stories take place in Russia where also lived a strange munk called Rasputin.
Some in Germany
but the most magical ones in Paris in the Les Halles foodmarket
at a place called "Cremerie de Paris".
Cremerie de Paris was place where another child,
young Louis XIV,
also called the Sun King
had lived a long long time ago.


Carl Solms and Alexei Romanov
The great-uncle of the young boy had spend his childhood with a lot of children.
This picture taken 60 years before shows the great-uncle as a young boy
with his cousin Alexei Romanov
They had almost the same age.
Alexei who had a very bad health and was impressed by his Carl who loved sports.

The older sisters of Alexei,
Anastasia Romanov was the "copines" of the great uncles
younger sister Friederike, (1905 - 1993)
also "baby sitting" from time to time.

Alexei et Dmitri Romanov, photo 1909Alexei and Dmitri Romanov  Crimea
All the children had an idole,
it was the "grand" cousin Dmitri Romanov (1891 - 1942)
who had lost his own parents


Dmitri was ultra glamorous
and did everything the young children dreamed about.
Dmitri was 12 years older than Carl.

Dmitri Romanov in 1910
Dmitri had a toubled childhood.
His mother died when Dmitri was born, his father just left.
Dmitri first grew up with his oncle Sergei Romanov (brother of Alexander III)
who was married to Carl's aount Elisabeth Hessen.

1905 Sergei was killed and instead of taking care of the child
Elisabeth decided to become a nun and found a convent,
Again a new home needed to be found for 14 year old Dmitri.

Sergei's nephew Nicolas II decided to take care of the young man.
He was married to Alix Hessen (young sister of Elisabeth Hessen, also aunt of Carl Solms).

1918 17 juillet the five children of the Tsar
Olga, Tatiana, Maria, Anastasia and Alexei were killed by the Bolchéviks,
Lenin was scared the glamorous children could one day become
competitors to his regime of terror.

Dmitri had the chance be in Iran the moment the revolution broke out
so he could escape to Paris.


The stories of great-uncle Carl were captivating for children..


1971 janvier 12 great-uncle Carl red in the
newspaper that Gabrielle Chanel had died.
He shows the paper to the little boy,
today editor of this article.

"Yesterday died in Paris a Lady
that was in fashion.
She was the girlfriend of
your great-uncle Dmitri Romanov.

You never met him,
he died many many years ago.

When we were children
we were all impressed by him.
Your grandfather you have never met
admired him.
Your great aunt Anastasia
always joked with him.
Your great uncle Philipp and Dmitri were inseparable.

I was captivated by him because of his glamour.
He secretly allowed me to smoke cigarets with him
(not a good idea for you to do) .
He was a little older than all of us.

Dmitri had no parents,
this is why he lived with
Anastasia's and Alexei's family.

I always wanted to contact this Lady,
Gabrielle Chanel
so she would talk to me
about Dmitri.

But unfortunatly I was a little shy.
You see fashion is another world.
It's not my world.
Now it's too late.

Carl Solms, january 1971



Carl was excessively shy.
He did not speak with adults, only with children.
Some say this behavior was due to a horse riding accident he had in 1915,
Others that it might be a result of WW II.

Carl had very little money,
he never took a cab.
Always a bus or a train.

Until 2003 you might have met him
in the public transport system of the Frankfurt region.
You would not have imagined that the old man who stood up
to leave his chair to any woman
was probably the very last of the interior cercle around
the Tsar of Russia ...

A reception was given for his 100th birthday,
he died a few months later.




continue - A little jewel from Coco Chanel
Meeting her magic friend ... Aimée 3/4