COCO CHANEL- Classy and fabulous
Born 19 August 1883, in the small city of Saumur, Gabrielle Bonheur Chanel was one of the greatest French fashion designers. She was born in a poor family and tried to hide her background when she was older. She claimed another birth date and a birthplace of Auvergne. After the death of her mother, in 1895, her father Albert Chanel had to work hard to raise his children. Gabrielle (Coco) spent seven years in an orphanage of the Roman Catholic monastery of Aubazine where she learned to sew. When she was 18 she left the orphanage and started working for a local tailor. It is believed that she adopted the name “Coco” during a brief career as a concert singer 1905-1908. In this time she met millionaire Etienne Balsan who introduced her to “the rich life”. First she designed hats as a hobby but soon she started a business out of it. Her first shop, opened in 1913 sold hats, raincoats and jackets. Even though the shop went out of business, Chanel wasn’t discouraged and opened a new shop in Brittany, France. In this time famous French actresses started to wear her hats and this helped to establish her reputation. It is said that Countess de Gounaut-Biron was her first aristocratic client.
She believed that “luxury must be comfortable” and replaced the corset with comfort and casual elegance. Nevertheless, she encouraged women to dress for themselves and not for their men. She was inspired by men fashion and introduced simple suits and women’s trousers, a more relaxed fashion. Coco transformed fabrics that were considered cheap into must haves. In 1923, she told Harper’s Bazaar that “simplicity is the keynote of all true elegance”. Women began to wear short skirts, cut their hair short and adopted her attitude.
In 1922 Chanel introduced Chanel No. 5 that was a great success, known as “the world’s most legendary fragrance”, the first designer perfume. It is estimated that a bottle is sold worldwide every 55 seconds. Some stories say that Ernest Beaux created six perfumes for Chanel and labeled them No.1, No.2 etc. No.5 was not only her lucky number but also her chosen formula, an artificial one, a composition because she was bored of the usual rose and lily fragrance. She created a perfume that reflected her personality. Its top notes include ylang ylang, neroli and aldehydes, its mid notes May rose and jasmine; and its base notes sandalwood, vetiver and vanilla. She strongly believed that “A women who doesn't wear perfume has no future.” In 1924 she started doing business with Pierre Wertheimer, a French businessman. Some say that he was also her lover. In 1925 she introduced her signature cardigan jacket, more like a sweater. The jacket was very different than a traditional one as she used very comfortable garments.
During the Nazi occupation she was forced to close up her business because war wasn’t a proper time for fashion and she served as a nurse during World War I. In 1939, at the beginning of World War II she moved in the Hotel Ritz Paris and lived here for more than 30 years. She was accused for having an affair with a Nazi Officer and this had a negative impact in 1954 when she returned to the fashion world. She also designed stage costumes and film costumes for several movies. Chanel died in Paris on 10 January 1971, aged 87 and still working. “I invented my life by taking for granted that everything I did not like would have an opposite, which I would like.” Coco Chanel