of Coco Chanel
(Gabrielle Bonheur Chanel)
Fashion Empire of Chanel brought in over $160 million a year
at her death. The genius behind this empire was Gabrielle
Bonheur Chanel or her designer name, Coco Chanel. Moving from
one home to another in her childhood, she desired a husband
and a family. Chanel never married and never had children.
Chanel's fashion creations revolutionized and set the standard
for the fashion industry. She forever changed the way women
looked and the way women looked at themselves.
Gabrielle (Coco) Chanel was born on August 19, 1883 as a second
child of an unmarried couple (the couple got married later,
when Gabrielle was 1 year old). Her father was a small-wares
peddler, her mother came from a family of a peasant. A little
girl was named Gabrielle Chanel. At the age of twelve, Coco
Chanel's mother had died and her father had left. Her two
aunts raised her until the age of seventeen; Chanel was brought
to live with the nuns in the Aubazine orphanage. There she
developed feelings of loneliness and mental anguish. These
themes would be with her throughout her adult life. The young
Chanel desired nothing more in life than marriage and the
love of a husband. Perhaps it was the lack of a "classic"
familial system that caused these unfulfilled dreams.
would never marry nor would she have children. According to
some rumors, Chanel was unable to have children because of
a botched abortion attempt in her youth. This would be one
of the many examples of the rumors that plagued Chanel. Chanel
had many relationships with men in her lifetime. Chanel had
a love for men in high places. She dated a Russian Duke, an
English Duke, an aristroct named Etienne Balsan, and a Nazi
officer. Her love affair with the Nazi officer would get her
exiled to Switzerland. In 1971, at the age of eighty-seven,
while staying in her private quarters at the Ritz-Hotel, Coco
Chanel did not always dream of becoming a famous fashion designer.
She danced, attempted to be an actress, sold hosiery, rode
horses, dispensed mineral water, and worked as a cabaret singer.
Coco Chanel opened her first millinery store in 1909 in Paris.
With Chanel's obsessive dedication and Etienne Balsan, a playboy
who would finance her, the store would become a success. This
says quite a lot about Chanel that she was able to turn a
small boutique that employed two teenage girls into one of
the most profitable fashion houses of all time.
won enough acclaim to set up a second shop in Paris.
The luxurious clothes, fabrics, and jewelry impacted
her second collection and she located the second shop
in an area that was easily accessible to very wealthy
people. Staples of modern day fashion, which she introduced
to the world; the bobbed hair style, pants for women,
"little black dresses", the elimination
of the corset from women's fashion, haute couture
skiing accessories, the unisex style of dressing,
sunbathing, the use of knit jersey, the women's bathing
suit, and sports fashion. She also became a Hollywood
was down in theaters, so in an effort to attract women
theatergoers, studios asked Chanel to design costumes
that would appeal to women. Probably the single element
that most ensured Chanel's being remembered was not
a piece of clothing but a perfume named after her,
Chanel No. 5. It was first launched in its art deco
bottle in 1923. It was the first perfume to bear a
Despite all her successes and with the Italian designer,
Schiaparelli, moving in on the fashion front, Chanel
chose to retire in 1938. For the next 15 years, she
moved back in forth between Vichy and Switzerland.
In 1954, Chanel decided to make a comeback. Depending
on the source, Chanel's return to the fashion world
was attributed to the falling perfume sales.
fashion empire at her death brought in over $160 million dollars
a year. The German Karl Lagerfeld has assumed the artistic
directorship of the House of Chanel since 1954. Certainly
it can be said that Chanel did an incredible amount for the
development of fashion. By maintaining her incredible business
sense, and her uniqueness, Chanel helped create what modern
fashion is considered today.
Chanel was an entrepreneur who was determined to break old
formulas and invent new ways of expressing herself. By her
death in1971, the French couturier had long since established
herself as the twentieth century's single most important arbiter