In his 1993 book, Creating Minds, Howard Gardner attempted to distinguish characteristics that were common to creative people. In doing so, he concluded that many factors were involved in the development of a creator. For instance, the relationship between the Individual, the Work, and Other People (i.e. family and colleagues) (Gardner 9) was elemental in predicting future successes. Likewise, part of his hypothesis focused around the fact that creators typically make their mark in one single genre. He divided the types of work that could be created into seven different areas:
interpersonal, intrapersonal, visual/spatial, logical/mathematical, musical, verbal/linguistic, body kinesthetic (Gardner vii). Gardner's rubric for finding commonalties amongst creators, or those people who produce innovative, influential works in their particular domain, has become a highly regarded and widely used tool for identifying creative genius. Likewise, one key factors promoting creativity was the marginal status of the creator. Gardner briefly mentions the importance of the relationship between the creator and their society (Gardner 42). In my opinion, Gardner gives too little attention to the importance of one's marginal status. I intend to show, through the example of Coco Chanel, that marginality can have an imperative impact on the development of one's creativity. Therefore, I will fit Chanel into the prescribed rubric that Gardner outlined in his book, and show how her marginal status defined her as well as her work.
The Personal History of Chanel
Chanel was born in 1883, illegitimately (Charles-Roux 9/3) to a father that would soon desert her, and a mother who would die by the time she reached the age of twelve (Charles-Roux 9). Once orphaned, she went to live in a convent (Charles-Roux 9). There she developed feelings of loneliness and mental anguish (Charles-Roux 9); themes which would carry with her through her adult life.
Perhaps it was the lack of a "classic" familial system (i.e. a married mother and father raising their children) that caused the young Chanel to desire nothing more in life than marriage and the love of a perpetually devoted husband (Charles-Roux 13). Unfortunately, (or from some perspectives, perhaps fortunately) Chanel would never marry nor would she have children (Charles-Roux 13). And according to some rumors, Chanel was unable to have children because of a botched abortion attempt in her youth (Madsen 27). This would be one of many examples of the rumors that plagued Chanel.
For such an ambitious woman, it might seem a tad surprising that Chanel would not get everything that she desired. Logically, the only area in Chanel's life where she did not get what she sought after was in her relationships with others (perhaps this was because relationships involved at least one other person, and for a control-freak like Coco, this proved difficult). As Madsen wrote: "She spent a lifetime...