HISTORY OF COCO CHANEL
"A girl should be two things: classy and fabulous."
"I don’t do fashion. I am fashion."
- Coco Chanel
Yes of course Coco Chanel is synonymous with all that is True Fashionista, and label namesake Gabrielle Bonheur Chanel led quite the adventurous and exciting life, breaking ground and introducing now legendary items and looks that we just could not do without in our style pursuits. Even now, in the pandemic and most cautiously, post-pandemic era, we continue to use Chanel as a standard against which many fashion entities are measured.
Ms. Chanel’s fruitful career spanned over six decades at the top of Parisian haute couture. Fashion forward and elegantly casual, her designs revolutionized a generation, inspiring women to cast aside their complicated, uncomfortable corset and bustle-filled “old-world” garments in favor of more modern, sleek looks. Among largely timeless ideas were the Chanel suit, costume jewelry, quilted purse and the never-outdated, always True Fashionista LBD. That’s right, you have Coco Chanel to thank for initiating a look that’s a no-fail every time. Although many other designers stylishly evolve the look as times change, if its little, black and a dress, Coco C came up with the initial concept.
Chanel’s is a true rags-to-riches story. Having been born into poverty in the French countryside August 10, 1883, her father abandoned her to an orphanage following her mother’s early death. After short stints working in a shop and as a café singer, she soon enough figured out the game and started dating wealthy men. In 1913, one of them, Arthur “Boy” Capel, helped her with the finances to open a tiny millinery shop in Deauville, France where she sold simple sportswear which included jersey sweaters. After five years, her “poor girl” sweaters started attracting wealthy women (Is that NOT the way it always works?) who had by now tired of the stuffy 19th century styles. Keeping to her rule that “luxury must be comfortable, otherwise it is not luxury”, her simple, comfortable True Fashionista designs revolutionized the fashion industry. By the late 1920’s the Chanel empire was already worth millions with expansion into a textile mill, jewelry workshop and a perfume laboratory. And we all know where this story is headed…
The phenomenal success of Chanel No.5 sent the Chanel empire to stratospheric heights. Introduced in 1921 with the help of master perfume creator Ernst Beaux, its been said that the name came from a series of scents he’d designed for Ms. Coco, with No. 5 being the winner. Its combination of floral scents was unlike anything else on the market, and since it was also the first scent produced by a major fashion designer and also featured an updated, more sleek design, it was and continues to be a huge success. Regardless of the fact that Chanel mistakenly signed an agreement that only gave her a mere 10 percent of royalties, the fragrance’s ongoing power still enabled her to make a considerable profit from its sales.
The twenties, specifically 1926, also inspired Chanel to create the Little Black Dress, which rocketed to instant fame and popularity. Chanel’s goal for the True Fashionista LBD was to create something that could be available to the widest possible market. Simultaneously black and simple, the LBD once again revolutionized fashion.
With the onset of WWII in 1939, Chanel closed her couture house and did not return to fashion until 1954. Her associations with a German diplomat during the Nazi occupation were an obvious contributor to this decision, her reputation dragged down by this development. However, once she jumped back in, Chanel’s fashion sense was on target with the introduction of a new suit design featuring a collarless, braid-trimmed cardigan jacket and graceful skirt. She also introduced bell-bottomed pants during this reinvigoration time of her name and brand.
Following Coco’s death in 1971, Chanel the couture house languished having lost its beloved visionary, and was haphazardly led by a revolving door of designers until Karl Lagerfeld entered the picture in 1983. Lagerfeld understood the iconic Chanel persona more closely than his predecessors, adding his own updates to evolve the label accordingly. Branding himself as a “channeler” of Chanel as well as a flat out reincarnation of Coco herself, which he openly believed and often discussed, Lagerfeld revived the label to monster levels for another 35 years until his untimely death in February 2019.
Chanel’s rise to fame and riches from the life of a penniless orphan has been chronicled in numerous biographical books, films and plays, including the 1970 Broadway musical Coco starring Katharine Hepburn.
Channel some Coco Chanel yourself with a visit to True Fashionistas. Either in-store or online, we have an always-updated selection of Chanel favorites with which to show the world you mean business, on your own terms.