Arguably the most iconic fashion designer to date, Coco Chanel‘s legacy is bandied around sartorial circles as casually as her bags are slung over well-clad shoulders. For those who are not as familiar as they should be with the designer, we have put together a novice’s guide to the great Coco Chanel.
‘Women think of all colors except the absence of color. I have said that black has it all. White too. Their beauty is absolute. It is the perfect harmony.’ So said the great designer, who was one of the first to re-purpose black as an aesthetic choice as opposed to a mark of mourning. Indeed, what distinguishes Coco Chanel’s influence is her desire to create women’s clothing that was both fashionable and practical, to inject ease and comfort into day-to-day style. Most notable in this vein is the Little Black Dress, described as the ‘Ford’ of clothing. Beyond the LBD, however, Chanel ensured that monochrome pervaded the brand’s image, from the packaging of a Chanel No.5 bottle to the original 2.55 handbags in black leather and two-tone pumps in beige with a black toe. While she never shied away from brighter tones, her commitment to rendering outfits in black and white – elegance without the frills – is a lasting legacy.
In the 1920s, Chanel became enamored with tweed after borrowing sportswear from her then-partner, The Duke of Westminster. The designer started a longstanding relationship with Linton Tweeds in Carlisle, originally commissioning tweeds that reflected the colors of the Scottish countryside. These were used to re-imagine the suit, creating boxy silhouettes that, alongside the fabric, continue to be re-purposed and referenced industry-wide in 2016.
When Chanel began, trousers were explicitly utilitarian, a war-sprung necessity to enable women to work in traditionally male roles. This all changed when Coco decided to use trousers to cover her legs on the beach one summer, sparking new sartorial possibilities for women. Though she bemoaned the number of women who opted for trousers over dresses and skirts later in her life, the designer left an indelible legacy of liberating women to wear traditionally masculine silhouettes. Once more, Chanel invited a re-imagined landscape of style in which comfort could also be couture.
When and where was Coco Chanel born? August 19, 1883, in Saumur, France.
What was Chanel’s real name? Gabrielle Bonheur Chanel.
Where did Chanel grow up? In a convent in Aubazine, where she learned to sew.
Why did Chanel become Coco Chanel? When she turned 18, Chanel worked as a singer where she was given the nickname by audiences who came to see her perform a hit song about a lost dog named Coco.
When did Coco Chanel open her first shop? In 1910 at 21 Rue Cambon in Paris. It was called ‘Chanel Modes’ and caused a sensation. Five years later, she opened her first couture shop in Biarritz.
When was Chanel No.5 created? In 1921 and rumored to be named as such because a fortune teller had told Chanel that five would be her lucky number.
What caused Chanel to move to Switzerland post World War 2? She had an affair with a senior Nazi intelligence officer, the ramifications of which led her to hide out in Switzerland for years until the scandal had subsided. She then returned to Paris in 1954 and launched her second fashion revolution. Among her designs was the 2.55 bag. Named after the year of its creation, the bag featured a gold chain strap designed to be worn over the shoulder in order to liberate women’s hands.
When did Gabrielle (Coco) Chanel die? On January 10, 1971, in the Ritz Paris (where she was a permanent resident) of natural causes.
A girl should be two things: classy and fabulous.
Fashion fades, only style remains the same.
The most courageous act is still to think for yourself. Aloud.
Success is often achieved by those who don’t know that failure is inevitable.
Luxury must not be comfortable, otherwise it is not luxury.