Coco Chanel back in vogue as France celebrates an icon

· Three biopics examine designer’s early years
· Craze is sign of country’s new fixation with celebrity
Coco Chanel
 Coco Chanel, French couturier. Paris, 1937. Photograph: Lipnitzki/Roger Viollet/Getty Images

She gave the world the little black dress, the bestselling perfume of all time and clothing that freed women from the constraints of the corset. Now, almost 40 years after her death, Coco Chanel is back in fashion – but it is her life, not her designs, that is taking its turn in the spotlight.

Three new biopics are set to explore the troubled early years and meteoric rise of the orphaned hatmaker from Paris, who came to revolutionise the male-dominated wardrobe and redefine the notion of chic.

Reaching for their scarlet lipsticks and quilted 2.55 handbags, the French fashion media are dolling up for a season of sartorial nostalgia. 2009, declared one newspaper, will be the year of Chanel.

“There aren’t many French women who were famous the world over, who defined their era, represented the image of their country, moved among the greats of this world and lived a life full of twists and turns, drama and big love affairs,” wrote Lena Lutand, a journalist at Le Figaro.

“While waiting to watch the life of Carla Bruni-Sarkozy … or Catherine Deneuve, producers are going crazy for Coco Chanel.”

In the most keenly anticipated film, Amélie star Audrey Tautou will play the designer before she became famous in Coco avant Chanel alongside Alessandro Nivola.

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