designer rewind: chanel
everyone's favorite branding. chanel comma gabrielle. born in 1883 in Saumer, France illegitimately to a laundrywoman and a merchant. her mother passed away when chanel was only twelve, and her father left her in a convent. she learned to sew here, and honed her needlework skills while visiting her grandparents over her summers in Moulins. the colors of the convent would later influence her entire career, as she frequently used black, white and beige in many of her designs. the rosary beads would reveal themselves in a bit more glamorous way if you take note of her strands on strands of pearls that are to come.
while not practicing her trade, she took up singing. cabaret singing, to be exact. on these stages is where she may or may not have been given the nickname "coco", after one of her most popular acts, "Qui qu'a vu Coco" or "Ko Ko Ri Ko". however, other stories say she claimed her father gave her the nickname "little coco." which was true? the world may never know.
chanel had many lovers. around the time she was twenty and met an ex-cavalry officer and textile heir, etienne balsan, and she soon became his cocotte. through him, she gained access to the high society of Royallieu, and found many connections to establish her business, that will eventually become an empire. though the two broke it off due to his many infidelities, they kept their friendship alive until his passing in 1953. while at Royallieu, she became smitten with one of balsan's friends, arthur capel, who was dubbed her "great love." he was a wealthy businessman who gave chanel the financial and emotional support she needed, despite marrying another woman. he had his affair with chanel until he died in a motorcycle accident on his way to see gabrielle.
coco opened her first store (a millinery store) with the help of balsan in 1910 called "chanel modes" at 21 rue cambon. she soon gained a very loyal following, and in only two short years her fashions were being published in popular magazines of the time. by 1913, she decided to open her own maison de couture. she was inspired by sailors and the sea, and began producing high-end clothing for the upper-class members of society on holiday in Deauville, France. It didn't take her long to get to Paris, and by 1918, she acquired 31 rue cambon, becoming the flagship and homestead to her atelier and apartment. above or below (depending on your browser of choice) you'll find a few photos of the mirrored staircase she designed within her apartment, and in one of the photos you'll find a photo of coco herself.
coco chanel's cafe of choice was angelina's. rumour has it she went there daily, solely for their thick, pudding-like hot chocolate; she always sat at table number ten.
chanel, herself, never produced a ready-to-wear collection. crazy, right? she transitioned the color black from being one of mourning to one of strength, was one of the first to introduce trousers into womenswear, and brought the jersey fabric into luxury apparel. from her iconic chanel n°5 scent to her bold costume jewelry, her legacy will not be forgotten (with the help of Karl Lagerfeld, now).
in case you now have an undying desire to own chanel things after hearing her story, i'll link some amazing deals on vintage chanel below, thanks to the real real. click away, and don't forget to use the code "REAL " for 20% off your order! xx. jami-lyn
information gathered from chanel.com and Coco Chanel: The Illustrated World of a Fashion Icon.