“Fashion is in the sky, in the street, fashion has to do with ideas, the way we live, what is happening.”
Born in France and buried in Switzerland, Coco Chanel lived a passionately creative life. Having spent much of her youth in an orphanage where she was taught how to sew, Gabrielle Bonheur Chanel set her sights beyond her tattered clothes and humble beginnings to become a timeless icon whose quirky quotes are still pertinent today.
A spinster who raised the daughter of her late sister, Chanel was linked to relationships with several resourceful souls. An ambitious woman, Chanel often tried to hide her peasant beginnings with elaborate stories about her childhood and family. The effects of the Second World War stormed through Chanel’s company and she was forced to close shop – all her shops – only to make her comeback at the age of 70 despite scathing criticism.
“Fashion is made to become unfashionable.”
Chanel opened her first store Chanel Modes in the year 1910, and continued to broaden her authority beyond couture into perfume, handbags and jewellery. The store was funded by two male contacts of hers and she began with a collection of simple straw hats trimmed with ribbon. Her unexpected entry into the clothing arena was actually spurred by a chilly day and a jersey. Having made a dress from an old jersey, Chanel wore it to keep warm one day and people asked her where she had bought it. She offered to make a similar dress for these ladies, and Chanel had discovered a new fashion opportunity to be pursued.
A pioneer in whatever she crafted, Chanel revolutionised the little black dress. She transformed a colour of grief into fashionable eveningwear with the ease and confidence of an experienced designer. Her inspiration was probably driven by an early job as a shop assistant and seamstress in a draper’s store, which sold mourning attire. Her designs focused on rebelling against the uncomfortable constraints of corsets, and she emphasised comfort as a form of luxury for women. The year 1925 welcomed the Chanel suit, consisting of a flattering fitted skirt and collarless jacket.
“A woman should wear perfume wherever she wants to be kissed.”
Chanel No. 5, Chanel’s first fragrance, was launched in the 1920s and was true to Chanel’s unique and pioneering style – it was the first perfume to carry the name of a designer. Working with a perfumer with the Russian royal family on his list of clients, Chanel commissioned a fragrance that was both fresh and clean. She was presented with 10 such perfume samples, listed according to number, and she chose number 5. It is nearly a decade later and Chanel No.5 is still the fragrance of choice for many women, along with its Chanel counterparts such as Chanel Allure and Coco Mademoiselle.
“Fashion changes, but style endures.”
The 2.55 bag was made of hand-stitched leather or jersey fabric and was insp
The bag’s design was revamped by Mr Karl Lagerfeld in the 1980s, with a modern chain strap and clasp. Leather was laced through the chain and the Chanel symbol was added to the clasp. However, the original shape of the 2.55 remained.
As the master of her own destiny, Coco Chanel rocked the colour and charisma of international trends and ideas. Her zealous love affair with the materials, scents and men in her life was fashioned through a desire to live her life on her terms, and she once said:
“I don’t care what you think about me. I don’t think about you at all.”