Gabrielle Coco Chanel Biography
Gabrielle “Coco“ Chanel was born on August 19th, 1883 in Samur. She was the daughter of Jeanne Devolle and Albert Chanel, a traveling salesman, who were not married. After the death of her mother, Gabrielle lived at the convent of Aubazine.
Later she went to a boarding school in Moulins. After school she started a career as a singer. Most of the time she sang “Ko Ko Ri Ko” and “Qui qua vu Coco”. Because she was always singing these songs she was given the name “Coco”. Having had poor success with singing, she made her first collection for some friends of hers. This was a hat collection.
Her entree to high society was the relationship with Arthur “Boy” Capel, who became her true love. He was also the one who gave her support and enabled her to open her first hat boutique, her first fashion boutique and her first fashion house. This was the starting point of her big empire.
After the tragic death of “Boy” Capel, who died in a car accident in December 1919, Coco went to Paris. This was one of the worst experiences in her life. In the following years she had a lot of other affairs (Strawinsky, Pawlowitsch, Reverdy, Westminster) but she never married or had children.
From her first millinery shop, opened in 1912, to the 1920s, Gabrielle ‘Coco’ Chanel rose to become one of the premier fashion designers in Paris, France. Replacing the corset with comfort and casual elegance, her fashion themes included simple suits and dresses, women’s trousers, costume jewelry, perfume and textiles.
Soon she was expanding to couture, working in jersey, a first in the French fashion world. By the 1920s, her fashion house had expanded considerably, and her chemise set a fashion trend with its “little boy” look. Her relaxed fashions, short skirts, and casual look were in sharp contrast to the corset fashions popular in the previous decades. Chanel herself dressed in mannish clothes, and adapted these more comfortable fashions which other women also found liberating.
In 1921 she started a third career with perfume. She created “Chanel No.5”. In 1922 Chanel introduced this perfume, which became and remained popular, and remains a profitable product of Chanel’s company. Pierre Wertheimer became her partner in the perfume business in 1924, and perhaps also her lover. Wertheimer owned 70% of the company; Coco Chanel received 10% and her friend Bader 20%. The Wertheimers continue to control the perfume company today.
Coco Chanel introduced her signature cardigan jacket in 1925 and signature “little black dress” in 1926. Most of her fashions had a staying power, and didn’t change much from year to year — or even generation to generation.
In 1927 she opened her first boutique in London and one year later she made her first tweed costume. She also opened a boutique especially for accessories in Paris. United Artists contracted Coco to style their stars. The dresses in “Tonight or Never” were also styled by Chanel. After the death of Paul Iribe, a good friend and old lover, Coco left her flat in Rue de Faubourg Saint-Honore and checked in at the Ritz. In 1934 Coco opened an atelier for fashion jewellery only.
She briefly served as a nurse in World War I. Nazi occupation meant the fashion business in Paris was cut off for some years; Chanel’s affair during World War II with a Nazi officer also resulted in some years of diminished popularity and an exile of sorts to Switzerland. At the beginning of World War II Chanel closed her empire, only one shop stayed open: Rue Cambon No. 31, where you could buy perfume and accessories. Coco had started an affair with Hans Günther von Dickhans, which may have been the reason of being arrested and interrogated by the French police.
After the end of World War II, Coco left France and went to Switzerland. In 1954 she started her big comeback and had a lot of success: “Mademoiselle”, as she was called, was back. This comeback restored her to the first ranks of haute couture. Her natural, casual clothing including the Chanel suit once again caught the eye — and purses — of women. She introduced pea jackets and bell bottom pants for women. She was still working in 1971 when she died. Karl Lagerfeld has been chief designer of Chanel’s fashion house since 1983.
In addition to her work with high fashion, she also designed stage costumes for such plays as Cocteau’s Antigone (1923) and Oedipus Rex (1937) and film costumes for several movies, including Renoir’s La Regle de Jeu. Katharine Hepburn starred in the 1969 Broadway musical Coco based on the life of Coco Chanel.
She died on January 10th, 1971 and rests in Lausanne.
CHANEL IS STYLE
Coco Chanel’s fashion- style is a symbol of traditional elegance. Her designs are classics and often have often been copied by other designers. She never overloaded her clothes with useless details. Chanel minimised details, and so her garments got the simple noble spell.
The beginning of Coco Chanel’s career are the 1920ies. At that time it was en vogue to wear clothes with o lot of tills, trains or synthetic flowers. Coco hated the coquettish style and corsets, too. She designed simple loose blouses, and chemises. The waist line slimmed down, and gave the outfit a youthful touch. A new garment was born, to worn without corsets, and with an upright silhouette. Coco Chanel played with the androgynous look for women and gave them a female note. She took sailor suits and sweaters, and changed them into fashion for women. Accessories were a lot of pearl necklaces. This kind of functional fashion received an enthusiastic welcome in the world of fashion.
Coco Chanel has revolutionised the garments for women, and created a new feeling for harmony, because she didn’t emphasise the waist line. Furthermore she took cheap Jersey, which before had been only used for underwear, and manufactured this to hanging jackets, with big piled pockets, without any waist line.
Chanel continued her style consistently, designed simple jersey dresses, sporty jersey costumes, jumpers and pleated skirts, which were nearly knee length. Although her creations showed the legs, Chanel never reduced women only to the way they looked, or to their social status. With her designs, she gave them the chance to move. Her clothes looked female, avantgardistic and for all that emancipated. Coco Chanel’s idea was to created a costume, which you could be varied whenever you wanted, and which fit every occasion.
The typical “Chanel costume“ arose. A gentle costume with a loose small jacket and comfortable skirt. This garment was often varied: in colours, in different materials, designs and border hems. The original “Chanel costumes“ can be recognised by their upper seams and the small metal chain which is sewn into the hem.
It’s hard to underestimate how much Chanel style has changed us all. The black dress existed before Chanel turned her attention to it, but it was considered funereal and, in the years before the First World War, buried under bows, pleats, lace, bustles and leg-of-mutton sleeves. What Chanel meant was a dress that was minimalist, sophisticated, elegant, to be worn at any time of day. Reacting against the sumptuous designs of her immediate predecessor, Paul Poiret, she advocated what she called ‘austere luxury’, the essence of chic. Her revolutionary approach to design meant that the black dress could be worn as day, cocktail and evening wear. ‘A woman dressed in black draws attention to herself, not her dress,’ observes Bott.
Coco Chanel created the “little black dress“, which became famous in the 1950-ies and is remarkable for its plain elegance. Its blank-slate versatility allowed it to be worn for both day and night. The black Chanel dress was strapless, backless and more than a little risque. It shocked the general public at large but quickly became a fashion sensation. The Chanel dress premiered in the third ever edition of Playboy. This added to the controversy surrounding the Chanel name. Another popular outfit are the “yachting pants“. They were based on sailor’s bell bottoms.
Much imitated over the years, Chanel’s designs were manufactured across more price categories than any other in the high-fashion world. It was Chanel who also introduced ‘costume’ jewellery to the world of fashion, using a variety of accessories such as necklaces, chains or pearls of several strands. A bag with golden handles, an elegant pearl necklace, a tailleur dressed in black are the symbols of elegance and status that marked forever the history of fashion. She liked to mix imitation jewels with real jewels and often combined massive amounts with sportswear. For Chanel Fashion jewellery was an object of prestige, often very trashy and so a contrast to her simple dresses. The jewellery featured a lot of glittery stones, coloured glass fragments and was bordered with gold.
But it was Chanel No. 5 – considered the number-one selling perfume in the world – which helped her become a millionaire. The perfume was created in 1921 by Ernest Beaux at the request of Chanel, who said about the perfume that it was “a woman’s perfume with the scent of woman.” Its Art Deco bottle was incorporated into the permanent collection at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 1959. Chanel No. 5 was the first synthetic perfume to take the name of a designer. One of Coco Chanel’s most famous quotes is, “This perfume is not just beautiful and fragrant. It contains my blood and sweat and a million broken dreams.” She was the opinion that you needed a harmonious perfume for a perfect outfit. “Chanel No. 5” doesn’t smell sweet, it doesn’t smell like flowers, it isn’t forcing. You can wear it any time and anywhere. Chanel No. 5 was made for women, who liked Chanel’s fashion and wore it. The smell is as androgynous as Coco’s style.
1. She loved pockets.
Coco Chanel was so enchanted with pockets that this would prove to be the main focus of her designs in handbags for women!
“A fashion that does not reach the streets is not a fashion.” (Coco Chanel)
2. It started as a hobby
Chanel started her career by designing hats which later became a bit hit with aristocratic Parisians. It was her innovative and fancy hat designs that got her attention.
3. Hosiery to high fashion
Before she became a fashion legend, Coco Chanel used to work as a clerk in a small hosiery shop.
4. Sun tan was started by her!
If you thought tanning became fashionable by accident, think again! It was Coco Chanel who made it seem fashionable when she got burnt by sun rays way back in 1923 on a cruise towards Cannes! It sure is all in the attitude.
“Innovation! One cannot be forever innovating. I want to create classics.” (Coco Chanel)
5. Hotel Ritz was her home
For more than 30 Chanel was staying in Hotel Ritz in Paris, that was her actual home.
6. Number 5 was her favorite.
Chanel No.5… was introduces on May 5th, 1921
7. She never got married. Never had any kids.
1. Check the logo on the bag. The Chanel logo is comprised of two interlocking “C” letters that face away from each other. The right C should always overlap the left C at the top and the left C should always overlap the bottom of the right. This rule is for handbags only and does not necessarily apply to other items in the Chanel line. But there are one or two exceptions on limited pieces.
2. Find the authenticity card. An authentic Chanel bag comes with one (unless it was lost :-). This embossed card contains a serial number. If there’s no card, if the card is not embossed or if there is no serial number included in the text, the bag is likely a knock-off.
3. Locate the serial number inside the bag.There must be a serial number placed somewhere within the bag’s interior. Prior to the late 1990s, the serial number was printed on a white sticker with the Chanel logo printed in gold across the background. From the late 1990s to the present, the serial number has been printed on a white sticker beneath 2 gold Chanel logos. The serial number is most often located inside the bag at the lower left corner or on the zipper pocket. The sticker should be covered with a rectangle of clear tape large enough to cover then entire sticker. Inside serial number has “Chanel” letters on a side of the number. Serial number can not be removed from the bag easily without damaging the bag. Try to peel off the hologram with your nails. The real ones stick real hard to the leather whereas the fake ones easily peeled off.
4. Examine both the serial number on the authenticity card and the serial number on the bag. They must match.
5. Look closely at the hardware on the strap of the bag. The Chanel name or logo should be engraved on the strap’s hardware. If an engraving is missing, chances are the bag is a fake.
6. Examine both sides of any zipper pull hardware. One side is engraved “Chanel” and the other is engraved with the Chanel logo. The pull itself must match the rest of the bag’s hardware in color and tone.
7. Track any repeating pattern on the bag. The logos and quilting must line up. If there is a pocket sewn to the front of a quilted bag, the quilted pattern does not break or deviate on the bag. The pattern aligns from the top to the bottom of the bag as if there was no pocket at all.
8. Check for white paper tag. Authentic chanel handbags has white paper tags with style number, name, color, barcode and price. Fake usually has metal tag saying “Chanel” on it and small sqaure tag (black or white color color) saying just “Chanel” without the name of the bag, color and price.
9. The quilting on CHANEL bags should align. This one is tricky because it depends on the angle of the picture taken. On flap bags the quilting doesn’t always align perfectly when the flap is closed because it really depends on whether the bag is stuffed or empty, or if it’s hanging correctly, etc. But it should appear to align.
10. Look for black dustbags. New models Authentic Chanel handbags have only black dustbags with white “Chanel” letters on it. Only sport style handbags can have grey color dustbags and older made bags (such as the 80s and 90s) come with a white dust bag..made from a kind of flannel fabric stamped with the CHANEL logo in black and enclosed in a circle with the word CHANEL written underneath.
11.Check the match in colors. The stamping (on the inside of the CHANEL bag) of CHANEL and MADE IN ITALY / FRANCE should always match the hardware. For gold hardware the stamps should be in gold. For silver hardware the stamps should be in silver.
12. No plastic or tight paper wrap! Brand new Authentic handbags’ hardware, handles or authenticity card NEVER covered with plastic wrap, can be covered only in light paper that can be easily taken away without throwing it into small pieces.
13. Do not trust sellers who offer Chanel handbags for wholesale. There is NO Chanel wholesaler, except Chanel company by itself. Everybody else who offer Chanel handbags wholesale are selling FAKE CHANEL HANDBAGS!
14. Tips how to read Chanel tag:
05 = collection year 2005
P = Printemp (French) or Spring
FYI: The letter “A” before the 2 digit year code = Automne (French) or Fall. The “00V” stands for continuous line.
A27611 = style number (prefix) – all you need is this number
Y03668 = part of the style number (suffix)
00307 = pink color
NSZ = no size (one size fits all)
3572617128318 = bar code number used for inventory purpose in the CHANEL Boutique and Saks. Department stores like NM and Bloomingdales use their own tracking system.