Coco Chanel needs no introduction. Chanel’s influence today is as strong as ever, so much so that the company she founded remains one of the most desired and respected labels in the world. Assistant Professor of Fashion Studies, Francesca Granata, said of Chanel: “She introduced what are now staples of sportswear into women’s wear, in part, by borrowing from the vocabulary of menswear. Her relevance to fashion is incredible.” So without further ado, here is the life story of the fashion icon, Coco Chanel.
Born Gabrielle Chanel on August 19, 1883, Chanel didn’t have the perfect childhood. At the age of twelve, Coco Chanel’s mother died. Following the unfortunate event, Chanel’s paddler father put her and her two sisters in a convent-run orphanage. Life in the religious institution was strict and frugal, but there Chanel learned how to sew and gained a basic understanding of creating clothes.
At the age of 18, Chanel left the convent and moved to Moulins. Chanel obtained work as a seamstress and pursued a secondary career as a singer. After the latter didn’t work out, Chanel opened a hat shop in 1910. This was possible thanks to the funding of Etienne Balsan, a French socialite and heir with whom Chanel had an affair with in 1908. Later in Chanel’s life, hats became her signature accessory.
In 1913, with financial help from lover Arthur Capel, Chanel opened a boutique selling fashionable clothes in Deauville. Chanel was very advanced, and quickly gained a rising reputation for being at the forefront of fashion. The success encouraged Chanel to open another shop in Biarritz. The shop prospered, serving as a venue for the wealthy during the first World War.
By 1919, Chanel was able to open her first boutique in Paris on 31 rue Cambon, the heart of the most fashionable area of Paris. The famous Chanel logo was created by Chanel herself and first appeared in around 1924 on bottles for her signature fragrance, Chanel No. 5. Chanel died in 1971, at the age of 87, leaving behind an empire and a huge legacy. Chanel is the only fashion designer listed on Time magazine’s list of 100 most influential people of the 20th century.
“In order to be irreplaceable one must always be different” -Coco Chanel