If you take a walk around the City of Westminster, you may notice something unusual about the lampposts that are found on every street. Painted in gold on a background of black, the unmistakeable shape of the Coco Chanel logo, formed from two interlocking letter Cs, can be found on every post. Is this architectural detail really a homage to the iconic French designer? Or is it just a fashionable coincidence? Before we answer this question, first a little back story on Chanel’s links with London and the Duke of Westminster…
Coco Chanel is of course mainly associated with Paris. Her apartment was located above her couture house on Rue de Cambon, in one of the most fashionable districts of the city. Paris is where her collections were launched, where she worked from her atelier and where she died, aged 87, in 1971.
But the influential fashion designer also had links with Britain, or more specifically, British aristocracy. As well as associations with Winston Churchill, Edward, Prince of Wales and other royals, Chanel was in a romantic relationship with Hugh Richard Arthur Grosvenor, The Duke of Westminster, for a full decade.
The Duke was reportedly infatuated with Chanel and legend states that as a token of his affection, all the lampposts in Westminster were embossed with her CC logo in gold, alongside his W crest, for Westminster. It’s rumoured that this grand gesture was a precursor to a marriage proposal, which Coco turned down with the famous dig at the Duke’s previous marriages, “There have been many Duchesses of Westminster, but only one Coco Chanel.” Chanel and The Duke of Windsor never married and he was reportedly left broken hearted after their affair ended in the early 1930s.
The truth of the curious Chanel lampposts is, unfortunately, much less romantic. In fact Chanel herself denied ever saying the words that reportedly ended their relationship, saying, “He would have laughed in my face.” While the Duke did gift Chanel with land on the French Riviera, the lampposts of Westminster have no connection with their union. So if the iconic logo is not a tribute to the one and only Coco Chanel, what is it?
Westminster City Council offer a far less exciting explanation for the mystery: CC simply stands for City Council. “It’s a nice idea, but no”, Martin Low, commissioner of transportation for the City Council, stated. “The lampposts didn’t actually get installed until the 1950s.”
Another fashion legend quashed. But Coco’s spirit still lingers in the city of London, through her Mayfair boutique, her inspirational life story and her fashion legacy, lampposts or not.