The Everlasting Icon
The pioneering French fashion designer, Gabrielle Bonheur Chanel, known as Coco Chanel, became an important figure in the fashion world in the 20th century because of the philosophy, simplicity and menswear-inspired fashion of her clothes. She was the founder of a very famous fashion brand, Chanel.
When Gabrielle was 12, her mother died of tuberculosis and her father left her and her 5 siblings. As a result, young Gabrielle was sent to an orphanage where nuns taught her how to sew. When she turned 18, she was obliged to leave the orphanage. Instead of becoming a seamstress, she joined the Moulin circus as a cabaret singer. She performed in a variety of bars and it was from there that she got her nickname,Coco, from one of the songs she sang.
Thanks to her singing at Moulin, she met a key person in her life: Étienne Balsan, a rich French textile heir, whose mistress she became. While living with him, she started to design hats as a hobby. However, Étienne was not Coco’s biggest love.
It was his friend, Arthur „Boy“ Capel, who introduced her to higher society and helped her open a hat shop in Paris in 1913. The affair with Capel lasted only nine months and then he married an aristocratic English beauty. In spite of his marriage, he never completely broke off with Coco. His death in a car accident was the worst event of her life.
Later on, she opened a few more boutiques in Paris and Biarritz and at that time employed 300 people. Her clientele were wealthy Spanish ladies who were spending their holiday in Biarritz and were not particularly affected by the war. She created loose casual clothes made of jersey, consireded to be the material for men’s underwear. The clothes she designed were simple, gentle, elegant and unique and applied elements of men’s fashion. She was courageous enough to introduce trousers into women’s fashion.
During the war, she decided to close her boutiques since she thought that it was not the right time for fashion. She spent most of her time in the Ritz hotel having an affair with a German officer (Nazi spy). The relationship with him spoilt her reputation in France. However, the British and the Americans remained her faithful customers. It is said that the unforgettable perfume N 0 5, which sold very well all over the world, helped her to regain the interest of her clients.
Coco’s comeback in the 50s was due to much hard work being done which focused on Hollywood celebrities such as Audrey Hepburn, Liz Taylor and Anne Baxter. Coco broke new ground in fashion as well as understanding the potential of logos and of commercials. In photographs, she is often depicted with a hat on her head, wearing pearls, smoking and looking forward. Coco wanted to be special, different and independent. And she certainly managed that. She never married and spent the last years of her life in Switzerland.
(Adapted from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coco_Chanel)