Coco Chanel (1883-1971)
“Beauty begins the moment you decide to be yourself.”
Born on August 19, 1883, in Saumur, Gabrielle Chanel and her siblings were raised in the orphanage, as their parents died when the future well-known designer was a child. She was brought up by nuns who showed her how to sew, which determined her future career. At the age of eighteen, Gabrielle started to work as a seller in a clothing store, and in her spare time she performed in clubs where she was called “Coco” because of the song in her repertoire “Ko Ko Ri Ko.”
She did not achieve any success in her musical career; however, it helped her to establish a close friendship with rich people. Chanel got acquainted with Toulouse Lautrec, Renoir, Picasso, Diaghilev, and Stravinsky. In one of the clubs, she met the rich businessman Etienne Balsan, who helped her to start a business in Paris. The couple moved to the aristocratic suburb, Vichy. Coco wanted to stand out from the rich courtesans, who lived there and wore tight suits, which were complemented by small elegant hats. Balsan bought her a store, where she sold her hats, which eventually became immensely popular. Later, she launched a few stores in other cities and started making clothes. Her first taste of clothing success came from a dress she fashioned out of an old jersey on a chilly day. Feeling confident, Chanel left Balsan for one of his even wealthier friends, Capel. In 1918, Capel died in a car accident.
In 1919, Chanel opened the Fashion House in Paris. At this time she had clients all over the world. People loved her blazers, skirts, and long jersey sweaters. Coco had a short haircut and loved to wear small hats and sunglasses.
Coco Chanel enjoyed horse riding. Since a dress was a very uncomfortable type of clothes for horse riding, she went to the tailor asking him to sew her a pair of trousers. Despite the fact that trousers were considered to be the piece of men’s closet, Coco was the first one, who introduced it as a must have in women’s wardrobe. The ladies who saw Gabrielle on horseback in men’s pants were pretty amazed. But later, they admitted that pants are very comfortable and stylish. In one day, Chanel became the fashion trendsetter. Although Chanel suggested such a trend as women’s pants, she didn’t wear trousers very often, since she believed that a woman would never look in trousers as good as a man does.
During the war, many Parisians changed their brocaded dresses and boa into simple blouses and straight skirts to the knees, suggested by Chanel. The Parisians enthusiastically accepted the elegant simplicity, and in the early 50s, the whole Europe was full of fashion lovers who liked Chanel’s style. A stylish suit, a coquettish hat, and a high heel were the attributes of an elegant and confident lady of any age. Only the subtle, yet necessary detail was missing: a drop of perfume that would emphasize that image. In 1920, Chanel created a perfume, which became the most famous fragrance in the world. Coco called her perfume “Chanel № 5”, as five was her lucky number.