Gabrielle Bonheur "Coco" Chanel (August 19, 1883 – January 10, 1971) was a pioneering France couturier whose modernist philosophy, menswear-inspired fashions, and pursuit of expensive simplicity made her arguably the most important figure in the history of 20th-century fashion design.
Chanel herself mentioned constantly improved versions of her childhood. However, it seems certain that she was born as the second illegitimate daughter to the traveling salesman Albert Chanel and his lover Jeanne Devolle in the small city of Saumur, France. Her parents married in 1884. She had five siblings: two sisters, Julia (born 1882) and Antoinette (born 1887) and three brothers, Alphonse (born 1885), Lucien (born 1889) and Augustin (born 1891), who died after a few months. On 16 February 1895, when Gabrielle was 11 years old, her mother died; her father abandoned them a short time later. The young Gabrielle spent 7 years in the orphanage of the Catholic monastery of Aubazine, where she learned the trade of a seamstress. After affairs with generous wealthy men – a military officer and later an English industrialist – she was able to open a shop in Paris in 1910 selling ladies' hats, and within a year moved the business to the fashionable Rue Cambon. Her influence on haute couture was such that she was the only person in the field to be named on TIME Magazine's 100 most influential people of the 20th century.
. Wertheimer owned 70% of the company; Coco Chanel received 10% and her friend Bader 20%. The Wertheimers continue to control the perfume company today.
The influential Chanel suit, launched in 1923, was an elegant suit comprising a knee-length skirt and trim, boxy jacket, traditionally made of woven wool with black trim and gold buttons and worn with large costume-pearl necklaces. Coco Chanel also popularized the little black dress, whose blank-slate versatility allowed it to be worn for day and evening, depending on how it was accessorized. Although unassuming black dresses existed before Chanel, the ones she designed were considered the haute couture standard. In 1923, she told Harper's Bazaar that "simplicity is the keynote of all true elegance."
The nickname Coco was evidently acquired at La Rotonde (cafe), a cafe frequented by members of a French cavalry regiment and many of the artists who flocked to Paris' Montparnasse section at the turn of the 20th century. It was there that Chanel, then a cabaret singer, performed a song called "Qui qu'a vu Coco," and the name stuck. (Other sources state that her audiences cried "Coco" when they wanted an encore, while further sources state that the song was called "Ko Ko Ri Ko," French for "Cock-a-doodle-do.")
Chanel was set up in business by a paramour, Étienne Balsan,
a French textile heir, and her romantic affairs with the artist Paul Iribe, the Hugh Grosvenor, 2nd Duke of Westminster, Grand Duke Dmitri of Russia, and British sportsman Boy Capel all had a considerable influence on the stylistic evolution of her often male-inspired fashions. Coco Chanel was very well known for minimal accesories, but was often photographed wearing a white Camellia.
She never married. For more than 30 years, Gabrielle Chanel made the Hôtel Ritz Paris in Paris her home, even during the Nazism occupation of Paris, during which time she was criticized for anti-semitism and homophobia, and for having an intimate affair with Hans Gunther von Dincklage, Nazi officer who arranged for her to stay in her favorite hotel, the Hôtel Ritz Paris. He later turned out to be an intelligence agent. She maintained an apartment above her Rue Cambon establishment and also owned Villa La Pausa in the town of Roquebrune on the French Riviera. However, she spent her latter years in Lausanne, Switzerland , she died in Paris and is buried there in a tomb surrounded by five stone lions.
Chanel has been portrayed on the Broadway theatre stage by Katharine Hepburn in a musical by Andre Previn and Alan Jay Lerner, and on screen by the French actress Marie-France Pisier.
The House of Chanel in Paris, under Karl Lagerfeld, remains one of the top design houses today.
"Dress shabbily and they remember the dress; dress impeccably and they remember the woman." "Fashion passes, style remains." "Fashion is not simply a matter of clothes. Fashion is in the air, born upon the wind. One intuits it. It is in the sky and on the road." "There are a lot of duchesses, but only one Coco Chanel." On commenting as to why she did not marry the Duke of Westminster "I am Coco Chanel." "I love myself."
More Coco Chanel Quotes
Dress shabbily and they remember the dress; dress impeccably and they remember the woman.
Fashion passes, style remains.
Fashion is not simply a matter of clothes. Fashion is in the air, born upon the wind. One intuits it. It is in the sky and on the road.
In order to be irreplaceable one must always be different.
A girl should be two things: classy and fabulous.
The most courageous act is still to think for yourself. Aloud.
As long as you know men are like children, you know everything.
Success is often achieved by those who don't know that failure is inevitable.
How many cares one loses when one decides not to be something but to be someone.
Don't spend time beating on a wall, hoping to transform it into a door.
The best color in the whole world, is the one that looks good, on you.
A women who doesn't wear perfume has no future.
Elegance is not the prerogative of those who have just escaped from adolescence, but of those who have already taken possession of their future.
A woman is closest to being naked when she is well dressed.
If a man talks bad about all women, it usually means he was burned by one woman.
I don't understand how a woman can leave the house without fixing herself up a little - if only out of politeness. And then, you never know, maybe that's the day she has a date with destiny. And it's best to be as pretty as possible for destiny.
There goes a woman who knows all the things that can be taught and none of the things that cannot be taught.
Luxury must be comfortable, otherwise it is not luxury.
There is time for work, and time for love. That leaves no other time.
There are people who have money and people who are rich.
I invented my life by taking for granted that everything I did not like would have an opposite, which I would like.
Elegance does not consist in putting on a new dress.
Nature gives you the face you have at twenty; it is up to you to merit the face you have at fifty.
Fashion is made to become unfashionable.
Fashion is architecture: it is a matter of proportions.
Those who create are rare; those who cannot are numerous. Therefore, the latter are stronger.
My friends, there are no friends.
Great loves too must be endured.
A style does not go out of style as long as it adapts itself to its period. When there is an incompatibility between the style and a certain state of mind, it is never the style that triumphs.
Elegance is refusal.
Since everything is in our heads, we had better not lose them.
I love luxury. And luxury lies not in richness and ornateness but in the absence of vulgarity. Vulgarity is the ugliest word in our language. I stay in the game to fight it.
Look for the woman in the dress. If there is no woman, there is no dress.
Jump out the window if you are the object of passion. Flee it if you feel it. Passion goes, boredom remains.
Some people think luxury is the opposite of poverty. It is not. It is the opposite of vulgarity.
It is the unseen, unforgettable, ultimate accessory of fashion that heralds your arrival and prolongs your departure.
I don't know why women want any of the things men have when one the things that women have is men.
A woman has the age she deserves.
Innovation! One cannot be forever innovating. I want to create classics.
Why am I so determined to put the shoulder where it belongs? Women have very round shoulders that push forward slightly; this touches me and I say: 'One must not hide that!' Then someone tells you: 'The shoulder is on the back'. I have never seen women with shoulders on their backs.
When I can no longer create anything, I'll be done for.
Material things aside, we need no advice but approval.
Youth is something very new: twenty years ago no one mentioned it.
Guilt is perhaps the most painful companion of death.
I was the one who changed, it wasn't fashion. I was the one who was in fashion.
A fashion that does not reach the streets is not a fashion.
Scheherezade is easy; a little black dress is difficult.
May my legend prosper and thrive. I wish it a long and happy life.
In fashion, you know you have succeeded when there is an element of upset.
I've never done anything by halves.
My reason for choosing diamonds is that, dense as they are, they represent the greatest worth in the smallest volume.
Official Site of Chanel Women's History from about.com Paris, Paris: Journey into the City of Light essay Coco Chanel Articles
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