Celebrating 135 years of Coco Chanel
Chanel symbolized by the intertwined Cs of the company’s logo is still one of the worlds most notable, fashionable and most luxurious fashion houses.
On the 19th August 1883 a baby girl was born that would grow into one of the most celebrated French fashion designers the world has ever seen. Baptised Gabrielle Bonheur Chanel, she would eventually gain the nickname of ‘Coco’ that would become her identity as she cast off her underprivileged childhood and re-invented herself.
Gabrielle Chanel was born into poverty and spent her teenage years in a Convent Orphanage where she learned to sew and perhaps gained an appreciation of simple lines and understated clothing. At the beginning of her life it could well have been predicteds that she was destined for a life of hard work, poverty and drudgery, but Chanel’s determined character and willpower made it possible for her to pave a better life path for herself and become legendary in luxury fashion.
Much of Coco Chanel’s life is undocumented and is subject to mythology, but it is certain that she had a classical beauty about her and as she grew older her beauty and seemingly endless youthfulness developed into a coquettish style that proved irresistible to men throughout her entire life.
A hundred and thirty five years from the birth of Gabrielle Chanel and her fashion house is still going strong. From the 1920’s onwards Chanel was acknowledged as one of the great fashion leaders not only in Paris, but across the globe and today we have many things to thank her for not least the little black dress, her timeless fragrances and long wearing lip-colour.
We could all learn some valuable lessons from the life of Coco Chanel in terms of her determination and ability to move her ideas forward. Despite her lack of formal education, Chanel had an astuteness and innate intellectual acuity that was unusual amongst women of her time and most rare in fashion circles of her era.
It is certain that Chanel did not have everything her own way for she certainly and there was strong rivalry from other couturiers in Paris, but by the 1920’s Chanel was firmly established and recognized as one of the leading fashion experts in the world. However, World War II, put an end to her fashion creations for a time and with the doors to her business having to close in 1939. Chanel spent World War II cooped up in the Ritz with her lover German officer, von Dincklage. After the war France looked to punish those who had collaborated with the German occupation force. It was considered beneficial for Chanel to leave France and so she headed to Switzerland and this is where the story of Chanel’s business and success could have easily ended, but again her business acumen and determination carried her through and she decided to make a come-back. This was an incredibly risky and bold move as Chanel was no longer a young woman and was now out of the Parisian fashion scene.
Chanel presented her new collection on 5th February 1954 and whilst the French press are were still unforgiving of her behaviour during the war and her fashions received a tepid reception and coverage from them this was compensated for by the warm welcome she received from the British and American Press. The American and British press saw her suits as a breakthrough in fashion that united chic and youthful in a fresh, exciting and accessible way. Against the odds Chanel had pulled off a successful comeback and at the age of 71. The Chanel suit is still a standard garment in modern fashion, worn by women across the generations.
In 1971, aged 88, Chanel died after a hard day’s work, but remains a fashion icon and is still one of the most celebrated and well documented fashion designers of the 20th Century.