Royalty would be lost had it not been for her Chanel suit. Celebrities would not have a go-to garment had she not given us the now must-have LBD. And the world would be lost had the legendary Coco Chanel not launched the legendary Chanel No. 5! Her sophisticated and a-less-is-more mantra changed the definition of fashion. She liberated women from corsets in 1920s and redefined women’s clothes. She was witty and wonderful. She not only said things like, "A girl should be two things: classy and fabulous", but lived by it!
On her 133rd birth anniversary, let’s get to know the woman who gave us some of the most iconic fashion trends.
Chanel was born in 1883 in a humble background. Her birth name was Gabrielle Bonheur Chanel.
Love for sewing
At the age of 12, Coco’s father left her and her sisters at an orphanage, where she was brought up by nuns who taught her to sew. She picked it up as a hobby and later on started creating and designing hats.
After leaving the orphanage at the age of 18, Chanel got a job as a singer/performer at a Moulin Rouge-ish cafe. It was here that she got her sweet nickname Coco, because of her popular songs included ‘Ko Ko Ri Ko’ and ‘Qui qu’a vu Coco’.
Coco dated Etienne Balsan, a French socialite and polo player, who helped her set up her first hat store. Eventually, she met Arthur Edward "Boy" Capel through Balsan, who became instrumental in financing an helping her set-up her business.
Chanel already had her hat store, but this event catapulted her into the world of apparel fashion. It all started with a fabric. Chanel revolutionized fashion when she created an outfit out of jersey material instead of the more traditional fabric used in 1920s.
In 1924, she collaborated with the Wertheimer brothers, Pierre and Paul, to give us the coveted Chanel No. 5.
The drug abuse
By 1935, Coco fell into a drug habit. So much so that she was injecting herself with morphine on a daily basis. Stories started doing the rounds that Chanel was called Coco because of her infamous cocaine parties in Paris.
Flirting with royalty
Coco Chanel is said to have had a 10-year long relationship with the Duke of Westminster. She was well known and established in the British elite circle and also knew Winston Churchill. Coco also owned an apartment in London’s prestigious Mayfair district.
During the war, Coco Chanel had to shut shop and stop business laying off close to 4,000 employees. She was also accused of having close relations with Nazi officer Hans Gunther von Dincklage, and harboring anti-semitic views.
Home was Ritz
For 37 years, up until her death in 1971, Chanel lived in a luxurious suite in the Ritz Hotel in Paris.
She lead an extra-ordinary life, almost like in the movies. Coco Chanel was not only a genius fashion designer but also way ahead of her contemporaries. Karl Lagerfeld, who took up her position as the head designer of Chanel, could fill the company’s design needs, but never mademoiselle‘s chair!