Gabrielle Chanel was born in 1883 as and died in 1971. Born in poverty, creativity and perseverance placed her on the world map. The nickname Coco stayed with her from her nightclub singing days before she became a fashion designer. She was a fashion designer whose name lives on through the fashion brand she created which bears her name.
She began her fashion career as a milliner, making and selling hats. In 1913, she opened a store in Paris where she sold her hats and other clothes items. She preferred to use wool jersey as it was cheaper and dressed well. Her designs were targeted at the few women in the workforce and often had a masculine cut to them. In the 1920s, she created designs worn without corsets, prompting the ‘little black dress’, the essential wardrobe item. A main shop was opened on the Rue Cambon in Paris, where the House of Chanel is still located.
Coco Chanel stopped designing during the German occupation of Paris in World War II. She had numerous affairs with men including a German spy and soldier and had to escape from Parisians’ wrath to Switzerland. She returned in 1954 with a huge fashion.
As she never retired, her lengthy career is littered with many fashion firsts. She added accessory lines to her design house, jewelry, perfume and clothing, bell-bottom trousers, knee length skirts, boxy button up jackets and the famous Chanel suit all have a reputation of their own. Her designs were the favorites of Jackie Kennedy, Audrey Hepburn and Grace Kelly.