Success is often achieved by those who don’t know that failure is inevitable – Coco Chanel
The iconic French Fashion Designer and Entrepreneur; Coco Chanel is truly an inspiration. Every girl dreams to own Chanel’s collection. We would hardly find anyone who isn’t aware of the great Chanel brand.
But how many of us know the master mind behind this brand, Coco Chanel?
Coco Chanel was a leading French modernist designer, whose patterns of simplicity and style revolutionized women’s clothing. She was the only designer to be listed in the Time 100 most influential people of the Twentieth Century.
Born in 1883, the era when women were immensely dominated by men, Gabrielle Bonheur “Coco” Chanel was determined to fight for freedom. Growing up at an orphanage she learned how to sew and at the young age of 18 she started working as a seamstress.
In 1913, with financial aid from an admirer, Chanel opened a boutique selling fashionable clothes in Deauville. She made innovative use of jersey fabric – a manufactured cloth which proved useful during the shortages of the First World War. She quickly gained a rising reputation for being on the forefront of fashion, and her initial success encouraged her to start another shop in Biarritz which prospered as a venue for the wealthy during the First World War.
Chanel took great pride as a woman in designing for other women, and by 1919, at the age of thirty-two, she enjoyed huge success, with clients around the world. Soon after, she relocated her couture house in Paris to 31 rue Cambon, which remains the center of operations for the House of Chanel today.
During the 1920s, in particular, Coco Chanel left a lasting mark on women’s fashion and design. Up until the First World War, women’s clothing had been quite restrictive and tended to involve full-length skirts which were impractical for many activities. Coco Chanel helped to create women’s clothing that was simpler and more practical. She also introduced trousers and suits for women – something which had not been done before. She always believed that in order to be irreplaceable one must be different.
Despite her great success, Chanel closed the doors of her salon in 1939, when France declared war on Germany. Other couturiers left the country, but Chanel endured the war in Paris, her future uncertain. Following the end of the hostilities and resolution of some personal difficulties, Chanel found she could not idly stand by and observe the early success of Christian Dior,
who’s “New Look” prevailed in the postwar period. While many admired Dior’s celebration of femininity, with full skirts and nipped-in waists, Chanel felt his designs were neither modern nor suitable for the liberated women who had survived another war by taking on active roles in society. Just as she had following World War I, Chanel set out to rescue and reinvigorates women’s fashion.
The designer faced challenges in this endeavor: securing finances, assembling a new staff, seeking out new fabrics, competing at age seventy against a new generation of designers. Chanel’s comeback collection of couture debuted in 1953. Although it was not a critical success, the designer persevered. Within three seasons, Chanel was enjoying newfound respect. She updated her classic looks, reworking the classic tweed designs until wealthy women and celebrities returned to the showroom in droves. The Chanel suit became a status symbol for a new generation, made of solid or tweed fabric, with its slim skirt and collarless jacket trimmed in braid, gold buttons, patch pockets, and—sewn into the hem—a gold-colored chain ensuring it hung properly from the shoulders. Chanel also reintroduced her handbags, jewelry, and shoes with great success in subsequent seasons.
Following Chanel’s death in 1971, the brand legacy was continued by her fellow assisting designers.
Today the Chanel Empire is owned by the Wertheimer family. But the essence of the brand would always have the fragrance and courage of the legendary Coco Chanel.