Jacques Helleu, the celebrated Artistic Director of Chanel, leaves behind a legacy of iconic imagery.
We remember Jacques Helleu the celebrated force of Chanel and master of elegance.
He took the genius of Mademoiselle Chanel and evolved it into a 21st century role model. Always respecting the founder's philosophy, he made Chanel's chic look as effortlessly cool today as it did in her heyday. Jacques had a fantastically shrewd approach, best exemplified in his adaptation of Chanel No. 5.
Discreetly modifying the famous form year on year by just one millimeter per annum, he transformed Mademoiselle Chanel's beloved flacon into a modern
icon right under our discerning noses, creating the illusion that it was just how she had envisioned it in 1921.
Jacques talent lay not only in his own strength, but his ability to spot it in others. He was adept at seeking out the world's greatest talent from every realm very early
on, taking them and elevating them to levels on a par with the products that they lionised.
I was privileged enough to work with Jacques, and, like all of his colleagues, I was touched by his elegance and finesse, and ceaselessy inspired by his vision and
drive. All of these attributes he applied to Chanel during his 50 year career, leaving a legacy that will live on.
He recently published Jacques Helleu & Chanel, a timeless tome which, on reflection, was ironically prophetic, but this was Jacques; always one step ahead. As photographer Bettina Rheims, Jacques' close collaborator, recalls "He was somebody who was always looking at the future. We were always doing something, and while we were doing it he would always come up to me and say 'Hey, I have an idea.'
He was always projecting himself into the future."
If I were to sum up Jacques Helleu in three words, it would be 'Less is more'. It is a phrase that I will always attribute to him. The chic, elegantly effortless graphic
language of Chanel remains so strong, that he has set a benchmark, leaving behind a legacy as strong as the brand that he has built.
Dominique Isserman and Bettina Rheims, just two of Helleu's close creative alliies pay tribute to the man who encapsulated the elegance of the true art of luxury:
"Women are beautiful, insolent, overwhelming. Men are strong, passionate, athletic.
Women twitter like birds, slam shutters in unison, say Yes in place of all other words, clamber up to the rooftops to find the man of their life, or a man to kiss. Wolves lie at their feet. Their laughter makes an orchestra surge from the depths of the sea. Their dresses, their unforgettable dresses, invent dances around them, and slip from their scented shoulders. Glossy lipstick, a hat, a necklace hide their nakedness, Watches stop counting time and diamonds are the last lights...Men dive into pools to save a high heel, cross the city in a taxi, the ocean in a boat, watching and waiting for a promise. Back to back, the couple on the diving board drown their gaze in the horizon pictured on the wall. Welcome to Chanel Paradise, It's on earth. On the huge stage where Chanel Paradise is manufactured, talents crowd in and the lights are on
day and night.Jacques Helleu is its creator, its conductor.He's at home. There he'll stay until his last breath. Objects and images will forever testify to his work, to his passion for it, for doing it with such talent and making us do what he wanted with passion, too. I'd like to thank Jacques Helleu from the bottom of my heart, in the name of all those who, like me, were lucky enough to be chosen, so that his dreams could take on the color of the day."Dominique Isserman
"His whole work for the last 50 years was to make the image of Chanel totally different from the other brands. He never followed any trend, he just followed
his own intuition and he was always walking on that thin line between elegance, provocation. He understood women so well, I think that was his biggest thing, he understood what they wanted, and he gave it to them."Bettina Rheims