Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel was born in 1883 in Saumur and after her mother died, her father left and she became an orphan. She was born in a poor family. She has always been quite mysterious about her childhood and about her family. She had nothing but a glamorous life; she was thought how to sew in her orphanage. Older, she started singing in clubs with her aunt Adrienne. During her singing period, she was nicknamed by her public the name we now all recognize her for: Coco. The name Coco come from a song she used to sing:
The video is from the movie Coco before Chanel (if you have not seen it, you should. It’s a brilliant movie in which Audrey Tautou has a scary resemblance with the real Coco added to an incredible talent).
During her singing career, she met Etienne de Balsan, a military officer that will introduce her to many of his wealthy friends and to Arthur “Boy” Capel, with whom she fell in love. With the help of those two men, she opened her first shop at 21 rue Cambon in Paris where created hats under the name “CHANEL Modes”. Then she opened boutiques in Deauville and in Biarritz and, finally, she opened her first couture house in 1918 at 31 rue Cambon, Paris (where you still today can find the original Chanel store). In 1921, the perfume Chanel N°5 in unveiled and it will stay the most important perfume of all time. Let’s just remember the famous sentence from Marilyn Monroe when she was asked what she wore to bed:
A part of the legend of this perfume was then born.- “Just a few drops of N°5…”
Marilyn Monroe, naked in bed with the bottle of Chanel N°5
Coco Chanel created the legendary perfume, but also a legendary style. She created a new area of style by allowing women to wear what was considered to be man clothes. Coco herself dressed in a manly way and she freed women from corsets and big shining dresses and allowed them to be more comfortable. She enabled women to move freely. She designed her signature jacket that was basically a men garment, which was worn with a straight cut short skirt. She brought tweed, a material used in men’s clothing, back from Scotland to create those legendary “boyish” jackets. Those jackets have cross time and have stayed, thanks to Karl Lagerfeld that has been able to keep the Chanel signature style in his creations.
The Jacket worn by Coco herself
A cotton tweed jacket at the spring/summer 2013 ready to wear collection
There is even an exhibition created by Karl Lagerfeld and Carine Roitfeld on the little black jacket that is going through different cities. She also created the little black dress. Before Chanel, black was a colour of mourning, and it was not worn in an everyday life. She showed that a little black dress could also be very chic.
Coco working on a black dress