Fashion legends and how they came to be: Coco Chanel

Fashion and Beauty

The name of Coco Chanel is synonymous with style, design and talent in the fashion world.

But how did this fashion creator rise to fame? Her story is actually quite ordinary.

Born in Saumur, France, in 1883, Gabrielle 'Coco' Chanel was brought up in an orphanage after the death of her mother.

Here, according to, she was in the care of nuns who taught her how to sew - not knowing that this would serve as the foundation for her future career.

Chanel began as a singer in clubs around Vichy and Moulins where she was said to have acquired her nickname ‘Coco’.

From there Chanel became involved with Etienne Balsan, who aided her in starting up her own millinery business in Paris. Shortly after however, Chanel left him for his friend and her first love, Arthur ‘Boy’ Capel.

In her career, Chanel began opening up shops not only in Paris’s Rue Cambodia but also Deauville and Biarritz.

Chanel, in an interview with author Paul Morand, once said that her fortune was built on one specific incident and clothing: an old jersey.

According to Chanel, she fashioned a dress out of a jersey one cold day. Those who visited the store loved the look so much they decided to place orders for it.

From this point on her business blossomed and she launched her iconic perfume, Chanel No 5, which became a massive source of revenue for her.

During the 1920s Chanel created her collarless suit and legendary little black dress, which completely transformed the idea of black, which up to then was regarded as a solemn shade.

However, during World War II, according to, Chanel had an affair with a Nazi officer during the German occupation of France. Although never convicted for collaboration, her reputation was damaged and she left Paris and spent many years out of the limelight before her triumphant return to the world of fashion.

Coco Chanel’s fashion and perfume empire is still a success, and is sure to continue for many years to come.


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