Coco Chanel

Coco Chanel

The world famous brand Chanel was established by Gabrielle Bonheur Chanel, who lived from 1883 until 1971. She was a notorious fashion designer from France who was the only one in her field to appear on the list of 20th century’s hundred most influential people in the Time magazine. Coco Chanel and Paul Poiret were credited separately for their efforts to liberate women from the restrictions of corsetes and promoting chic, casual and sportive outfits as a standard for females in the era after world war one. Chanel’s aesthetics transcended couture, she became recognized for her fragrances, handbags and jewellery designs. The multitalented designer was known for her energy, ambition and determination which she put to use in her social and professional life. She stepped the stairs of success in only a short time because of her both social and work prominence. Her connections with craftspeople and artists were strong and this became special reason behind her achievement. Despite all this sensation, there was something about her personality that raised questions against her. She was a highly opportunistic and competitive woman and at times the choices she made in life erupted controversy about her repute, particularly at the time of occupation of France by Germany during world war two.

Coco Chanel was born to Eugénie Devolle, an unwed laundry woman working at a charity hospital in Saumur. Chanel’s father was a nomadic street vendor and travelled across towns. A year later after her birth, her parents got married and gave birth to five more children – among them one died at birth. At the age of twelve, Chanel’s mother passed away due to bronchitis and then her father sent his sons to work on farm and daughters to an orphanage. It was a frugal life that demanded austere discipline. When Chanel turned eighteen, she was sent to a boarding girls’ house in Moulins. Then onwards she straightened and fabricated her life history to veil her meek origins. She developed fictional stories about her family, however the memoirs were never published.

During her stay at Aubazine, she found a job as a seamstress since she knew how to sew. Around this time when she wasn’t busy with her needle, Chanel  sang in cabarets organized by cavalry officials. She made her first singing appearance at café-concert in Moulins. It was during this time that Gabrielle got Coco for a name. This could be because of the two famous songs she frequently sang, Qui qu’a vu Coco Ko Ko Ri Ko, and Qui qu’a vu Coco, or it was a reference to the French term for kept woman – cocotte. Although Chanel’s personality was charming but her vocals were marginal and she often failed to acquire stage work. She eventually realized that a longtime career in stage was not her fate.

She returned to Moulins and became a mistress of Étienne Balsan, a former cavalry officer and a wealthy heir to a textile business. For three years, Coco Chanel lived in his chateau with him. Balsan provided Chanel with all the beauties of being rich – dresses, pearls, diamonds and more. In 1908, she started having an affair with Captain Arthur Edward Capel, Balsan’s friend. This relationship lasted for nine years until Capel died. Capel’s death was a great blow for Chanel since his existence and support helped Chanel to direct her life and ideas for business.

In 1971, the designer died in Hotel Ritz where she resided for more than thirty years.


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