Gabrielle Bonheur Chanel is a fashion icon. I love her story.............
She was born into a poor family in France in the year 1883. After the passing of her mother, she (age 12) and her younger sister were left in an orphanage run by nuns. It was here that she learned to sew.
Leaving the convent at age 18, Gabrielle became known as Coco after singing the song "Ko Ko Ri Ko" in a small French cafe in the evenings.
Coco was beautiful and talented. Because of the financial assistance and social connections of various male admirers throughout her life, she always seemed to have the backing for her creativity.
Her first shop was a millinery (hat) boutique funded by her first lover, Etienne Balsan. A sad love story. I suggest you view the movie, Coco Before Chanel. It is a French movie with English subtitles. Have a box of Kleenex with you. View the trailer here:
Coco's later financier, Arthur Edward "Boy" Capel , was instrumental in making her dreams of designing for the wealthy clientele possible. She wanted to liberate women from the tight corsets of the day by designing loose fitting cotton jersey clothing. Her easy flowing designs became popular and in demand.
In 1920 she launched her perfume, Chanel No. 5. In Chanel's words,
Perfume “is the unseen, unforgettable, ultimate accessory of fashion. . . . that heralds your arrival and prolongs your departure,”
In 1925, she introduced the now legendary Chanel suit with straight jacket, often without a collar and well-fitted skirt straight or pleated. Her designs were revolutionary for the time—borrowing elements of men’s wear and emphasizing comfort over the constraints of then-popular fashions.
Another 1920s revolutionary design was Chanel’s little black dress. She took a color once associated with mourning and showed just how chic it could be for evening wear
She fought through the depression of the 1930's, but with the onset of World War II, she closed her design house with the German occupation of much of France.
In 1954, at the age of 71, Chanel returned to the world of fashion after her vocal outrage over the waist cinching designs of Christian Dior and Balenciaga. The Chanel suit became a popular status symbol for a new generation, made of tweed fabric with its slim skirt and collarless jacket trimmed in braid and patch pockets, and sewn into the hem - a gold colored chain - ensuring the jacket hang properly.
Coco Chanel died on January 10, 1971, at her apartment in the Hotel Ritz. She never married, but was rumored to have many lovers. In her own words:
“I never wanted to weigh more heavily on a man than a bird.” Hundreds crowded together at the Church of the Madeleine to bid farewell to the fashion icon, many wearing Chanel suits.
Karl Lagerfeld took over the Chanel haute couture in 1983 and the ready-to-wear in 1984. He continues to use the signature design and details of the CC label. The fact that he can use the Chanel inspiration from the archives is a testament to the importance of Coco Chanel.
You may like to watch the Spring-Summer 2018 Ready-to-wear runway showing of Chanel at the Grand Palais in Paris.