Half a dozen critically-acclaimed books spanning fiction, non-fiction and autobiography. Stints at titles including the Observer, the Telegraph and Vogue. Editor-in-Chief of Harper’s Bazaar and Town & Country. A Lifetime Achievement Award from British luxury nonprofit, Walpole. Justine Picardie is becoming almost as iconic as the subject of her latest book, Coco Chanel.

The latest? Picardie’s definitive opus on Chanel’s life was first published in 2010, but ever the journalist, the updated version offers an even franker, more intimate view of the French designer. Whether you’ve read Coco Chanel: The Legend and the Life V.1, seen the film, or neither, you may be aware that Chanel’s life was an incredible web of half-truths, myths and fables conjured up by none other than Coco herself. Like examining a beautifully-constructed garment, cleverly-sewn to conceal faults and cover up flaws, Picardie unpicks Coco’s stories one by one.

“Sleek. Chic. Notoriously guarded. Welcome to the secret world of Gabrielle Chanel,” – the book’s opener hints at Chanel’s enigmatic existence. Almost 350 pages long, Coco Chanel: The Legend and the Life is both a read to dip in and out of, or a solid bedside table choice. Packed with family photos, fashion drawings, magazine spreads and letters, it’s a fascinating account of Chanel – the woman and the brand – to keep you enthralled and guessing until the end. And best of all – still wondering just a little more.. We asked Justine Picardie to reveal her own secrets…

Why did you decide to revisit Chanel?

I’ve continued to be fascinated by Coco Chanel, even after the first edition of my biography was published — and new pieces of the puzzle about her life were emerging, particularly when I started looking in the Harper’s Bazaar archive. It felt important to ensure that my book was as complete and definitive as is possible.

Do you think someone like Chanel could exist today?

Definitely — creativity and ambition remains as powerful today as in Chanel’s era. But perhaps a present-day Chanel would be working as an artist, given the ways in which art and fashion have to inhabit a shared landscape in this epoch.

What has made Chanel so iconic?

She never tried to look like anyone else — her expression of personal style was an authentic mirroring of herself, so she introduced a different idea of femininity. At a time when women were still wearing corsets and elaborate hats and floor-length gowns, she introduced trousers and soft tailoring for women, which bestowed upon them a sartorial dignity which had hitherto only been available to men. She was the definitive embodiment of her own brand — in other words, she was entirely true to herself.

Chanel: the consummate entrepreneur?

She was definitely entrepreneurial, but at certain key moments, she also needed the financial investment provided by men — after all, it was the love of her life, Boy Capel, who gave her the money to set up her business in 1910. But she was swift to pay him back, and financial independence was key to her sense of herself as an independent woman.

Chanel: the feminist?

She certainly sought to define herself as her own woman — and to escape the control of men — but she was also conflicted at times, and suffered periods of intense loneliness and grief, when she said that she wished she had married and had a family.

Tell us about 31, Rue Cambon

It’s a magical place — one of those rare spaces where the veil between the living and the dead, the past and the present, seems to become translucent. I wrote some of my book sitting at Chanel’s own desk in her private apartment on Rue Cambon — which was incredibly inspiring. The marks of her pen are still visible on the leather surface of the desk — and late at night, when everyone else had left the building, I occasionally felt as if I might catch a glimpse of her reflection, if I only turned around fast enough, in one of the silvery smoked-glass mirrors that hang on the walls of her apartment.

Do you think Chanel would have been quite so iconic without her comeback?

I think it took her comeback in the early 50s to introduce her to a post-war generation of women — and for her designs of soft tweed jackets and perfect little black dresses to become relevant and desirable all over again.

Do you feel like you ever really got to the bottom of the mysteries of Chanel?

I’ll never stop being intrigued by her mysteries — and that is what makes her so alluring, even now.

Published by Harper Collins, Coco Chanel: The Legend and the Life is available to buy online here.