Being a woman today seems more challenging than ever before, with so many competing demands and the unrealistic notion of work-life balance. But then when I look back to women from the past, I realize that we all have our own hurdles to overcome.

The exhibit “The Woman Who Reads,” dedicated to Chanel in Venice, really brought this reminder home for me. The legacy she left and, even more striking, how she began… especially now that I run my own business and often wonder where I am going. I look at what she would have given up had she not listened to her inner voice.

This kind of clarity and vision is what I hope to stand by, especially in moments of doubt. The strength to not give up, the curiosity to keep on exploring new ways and continue uncovering and unraveling the unknown… this is what made Chanel such a magnificent artist and strong business woman.

“There is the life we lead and the one that leads us.”

Her life is a tribute to listening to your soul and following your vision, regardless of how society deems you ought to live your life.

This exhibit in Venice at the Ca’ Pesaro was like going back in time. The still beauty of the palazzo makes you slow down as soon as you enter its corridors.

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It’s an exhibit that forces you to listen, to read your way into her mind, even if only for a few seconds. The extraordinary collection of books, sketches, paintings, clothing items and some very intimate objects from her apartment at 31 rue Cambon all hold the story of her different worlds.

“Artists thought her discipline stimulating her creativity. They say she curated her library with care, dressing her books like her dresses.”

Chanel was known for being a solitary creator but this exhibit gave a glimpse of what and who might have influenced her life’s work–from poets and novelists to her many artist friends. Certainly no single object or person can account for her natural allure, but they all helped shape the freedom of her spirit and the bold lifestyle she led.

Her passion for eastern thought, for example, can be attributed to the great love of her life, who introduced her to this philosophy through books, signs and numbers. You never know how a single encounter can change your life.

“To read is to open up a field of possibilities. The artist answers the enigma with another enigma and this creates a series of new ones.”

“Reading only makes sense if afterwards one is free to think for oneself,” Chanel would say.

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Chanel’s path was full of feathered messages where sensitivity, intelligence, knowledge and freedom were her values. And she drew her creativity from the night and her dreams.

“There is nothing to look for, all is to find.” – Jean Cocteau

It is her strength of character, her courage and confidence that I wish all women can find in themselves and cherish. She fought to create her own language, carve out her own style. A real futurist inspiring a new era of women…

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I left wondering how it might have been to live during that period and be one her acquaintances. All I can say is that she was right: “May my legend continue along its own path. I wish it a long life.”

And so it did, and so it shall.