Fashion: The Chanel jacket that launched a thousand copies – and why that’s OK 


When is a 
Chanel jacket not a Chanel jacket? When it is a collarless jacket in a ladylike pastel tweed,
with a boxy shape accentuated by shiny gold buttons on four patch pockets but the label says Mango. 

Or when it is an unstructured hip-length textured blazer in a soft-focus check, with pearl-effect buttons but it’s £59.99 at Zara.

The soft tweed jacket that Coco Chanel made famous has become a bread-and-butter look for fashion retailers all over the world. Not that the Chanel name is openly invoked, of course.

Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, but lawyers are immune to sweet talk, so the name is absent from other retailers’ descriptions of their nubbly blazers with fancy buttons. (By the way,

it is not just high street copies Chanel is offended by: Saint Laurent’s tweed-suit-based catwalk show last year sparked a public row, with Chanel calling Saint Laurent a “parasite” although the two have since issued a joint statement condemning plagiarism.)


The jacket is a victim of its own success.

Created in 1954, it is now instantly recognisable no need for logo or monogram. 

Spot a certain type of jacket in the wild, and the name Chanel will pop into your head long before you’re close enough to tell whether the buttons are embossed with interlocking Cs. 

The basic grammar of the look textured woven surface, perhaps with a metallic thread; statement buttons; supple, cardigan softness is clearly legible. 

This is a chameleon piece that can play tough or sweet, happy or serious. Keira Knightley got married in an ivory one; Jackie Onassis wore a black one, with matching gloves, to the funeral of Cardinal Cushing. 

Kate Moss wears hers to the pub, with jeans; Amal Clooney wears hers to court.This is a chameleon piece that can play tough or sweet, happy or serious. Keira Knightley got married in an ivory one; Jackie Onassis wore a black one, with matching gloves, to the funeral of Cardinal Cushing. Kate Moss wears hers to the pub, with jeans; Amal Clooney wears hers to court.