Biography of Coco Chanel
Coco Chanel (real name Gabrielle Chanel) is a style icon, one of the most famous fashion designers in the world, the founder of the clothing and perfume brand Chanel. The style created by Chanel embodies an entire era, and in it – elegance, minimalism in the use of accessories and convenience. Chanel was an extraordinary and complex person in life – she for the most part despised people and was ready to go over their heads for the sake of her success and profit.
Pictured: Coco Chanel
Childhood and family
The future celebrity Gabrielle Chanel was born in 1883 (although she herself claimed that she was born 10 years later) in a poor family of a market trader and the daughter of a rural carpenter. When Gabrielle was born, her parents were not married, it was their second daughter. The girl was registered in a shelter, and she was given a name in honor of the nurse Gabriel, who helped the baby to be born.
Gabrielle Chanel as a child
Gabrielle’s mother, Jeanne Devol, died when the girl was only eleven years old. Literally a week later, her father left her with her sister and two brothers – until she came of age, Gabriel had to live in a shelter at the monastery.
Gabrielle Chanel in her youth
It would seem that the backstory is not at all successful – however, the experience gained by Chanel in the orphanage determined her future life. The fact is that it was the nuns who taught the girl to sew, so that, after leaving the institution, Gabrielle was able to get a job as a saleswoman in the Au Sans Pareil lingerie store.
First steps to success
In addition to her passion for fashion design, Gabrielle loved to sing and even performed in a cabaret. It was then that she got the nickname Coco because her favorite songs were “Ko Ko Ri Ko” and “Qui qua vu Coco”. In one of these cabarets, the girl met a wealthy retired officer, Etienne Balzan, who soon offered her to move to his real castle in Paris. Chanel agreed, but it was not her style to depend on someone.
During performances in a cabaret, Gabrielle Chanel was nicknamed Coco.
Soon, remembering the sewing lessons in the orphanage, she realized that she wanted to become a milliner (a craftswoman in the manufacture of women’s hats, dresses and linen), and with the help of a young English entrepreneur Arthur Capel in 1910 she was able to open her own hat shop in Paris – it is still Pore is located opposite the Ritz Hotel at 31 rue Cambon.
The beginning of a design career
When Coco Chanel opened her own business and was able to give free rein to her taste and abilities, nothing could stop her – neither lack of experience, nor even the First World War. She worked both as an entrepreneur and as a designer, bringing to life all her ideas for creating elegance – she brought women’s trousers into fashion, that same little black dress. The style she created was later called “simple luxury” – in order to dress in the style of Chanel, you first need taste, and not a lot of money.
Coco Chanel became the first tailor to enter high society
But Gabrielle’s clients had money, and they were happy to buy hats and clothes from the original milliner. Very soon, Coco’s business became a phenomenon that had not been before in the history of fashion. Chanel herself became the first tailor to enter high society, and was not a servant of wealthy customers. Composers, choreographers, artists, directors, entrepreneurs became her friends. The girl changed public opinion about the work of the designer, becoming an attractive personality of an international scale.
“I entered the cream of society not because I created clothes. On the contrary. After all, I created clothes because I was in a society where I became the first woman who lived the full life of my century, ”Coco Chanel commented on her fame.
Coco Chanel paid attention to high-ranking aristocrats. For example, a woman was part of the circle of friends of the Russian Grand Duke Dmitry and the English Duke of Westminster. Many successful men tried to achieve her hands, but she was really only concerned about her business. At the suggestion of the Duke of Westminster, Coco replied that there could be many Duchesses of Westminster, but Chanel was the only one.
Coco Chanel and Duke of Westminster Hugh Grosvenor
At the age of fifty, Coco Chanel was at the pinnacle of her fame and beauty. She dressed with a sense of absolute freedom and bathed in glory. It was at this time that she was most admired. The years of the fiftieth anniversary were the golden ones in the biography of the once poor girl Gabrielle.
And if during the First World War the designer managed to stay afloat, then after the announcement of the Second World War in 1939, Chanel had to close all her salons – at such a time there was no place for fashion. Despite the occupation of Paris, Coco remained at that time in the French capital and even managed to rescue her nephew from captivity.
Coco Chanel was forced to leave her native France for 10 years
In September 1944, at the initiative of the Committee on Public Morality, a woman was arrested because of rumors about her connection with the German officer Hans Günther von Dunckleg. Soon she was released at the request of Churchill with the condition that she leave France. Chanel went to Switzerland and lived there for almost ten years. According to researcher Hal Vaughan, Chanel was not only the mistress of an accomplice of Nazism, but also supplied information to the German government.
Coco Chanel’s personal life
The life of the famous fashion designer was full of novels, but none of them turned into marriage – it seems that Chanel did not need this. She was credited with novels with the Russian émigré composer Igor Stravinsky, the Duke of Westminster and even the Nazi officer Hans von Dinklage. According to some sources, Chanel was bisexual.
Rumor attributed the affair of Coco Chanel with Igor Stravinsky
The fashion for tanning appeared just at the time of Coco Chanel. It happened by accident – in 1923, Gabrielle got tanned during a cruise and appeared in this form in Cannes. Society, at that time attentive to the appearance of a woman, immediately followed the example of Chanel.
Coco Chanel introduced the tan trend
The famous perfume “Chanel No. 5” appeared in 1921. Their author is a Russian emigre perfumer Ernest Bo. The uniqueness of these perfumes lies in the fact that before Chanel, women’s perfumes did not have complex smells. Coco was an innovator and offered women the first synthesized perfume.
Coco Chanel and her famous perfume
Coco Chanel made popular little black dresses that were allowed to be worn all day, complemented by various accessories. So she proved that once considered mourning, black can be elegant and perfectly complement the evening look.
Coco Chanel brought the little black dress to women’s fashion
The merits of Coco Chanel include the creation of unique handbags. “I’m tired of carrying reticules in my hands, and besides, I always lose them,” Gabrielle said in 1954. A year later, she presented a small rectangular handbag on a long chain. As a result, women were able to carry the bag, conveniently hanging it on their shoulders.
Last years of life. Death
Years passed, and the notoriety of Chanel gradually faded into the past. If pre-war fashion was dominated by women designers, for example, Chanel, Chiaparelli, Lanvin, Vionnet, then in the post-war fashion men, among whom were Dior and Balenciaga, were in power. It seemed that the success of Dior left no future for the fashion created by Chanel.
In 1954, the House of Chanel was reopened in Paris.
However, in 1953, Coco Chanel decided to reopen her salon in Paris. Then the famous Frenchwoman was already 70 years old. On February 5, 1954, the House of Chanel was inaugurated. Critics were merciless and smashed her new collection. However, Gabrielle remained deaf to criticism – it took her only three years to return to the Olympus of glory again.
She commented on her success simply: “Elegance in clothes means, above all, freedom of movement.”
Thus, at the age of 70, Coco Chanel began a new life. The woman changed fashion again, making her style one of the dominant ones. Audrey Hepburn and Elizabeth Taylor, as well as US First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy, addressed her with orders. Chanel’s tweed suit was her last calling card.
Coco Chanel was buried in Lausanne at the Bois de Vaux cemetery.
On January 10, 1971, Coco Chanel died at the age of 87 at the Ritz from a heart attack. She was buried in Lausanne, Switzerland, with five lions carved on the top of her tombstone.