CoCo Chanel: A Revolutionary In Fashion

Chanel has been a very influential brand throughout fashion history. It is known for its fragrances, clothes, watches, and handbags. The brand’s most famous pieces are the little black dress, the Chanel No.5 perfume, and the Chanel Suit. Let’s take a deeper look at Chanel’s rise in the fashion world and their influence. 

Coco Chanel was a French fashion designer and a businesswoman. She was born on August 19, 1883 in Saumur, France. She grew up in a poor house in Hospice. Her mother died when she was 12 and her father put her in an orphanage. The Catholic institution was strict and very disciplined and tried to sway Chanel into order but she was very strong willed and rebelled against them. The nuns taught her sewing skills during her stay there and that knowledge helped paved the way for her career. Many people expected that she was going to have a hard life under her circumstances but she changed her path. In the beginning of her career she went by “Coco” when she performed in clubs as a singer. Her singing career was brief and she continued to start her fashion career in 1906. 

She started out as a mistress to a french textile designer, Etienne Balsan. She used her influence over wealthy men she met to help further her business endeavors and pay her bills. She grew bored and wanted to do more. Etienne helped her start as a millinery designer unprofessionally. She later met a  businessman named Arthur “Boy” Capel ,who was one of Etienne’s wealthier friends. They shared passions and she fell in love with him and left Etienne. They both played a big part in jumpstarting Coco’s career. Arthur helped Chanel start her millinery business and flew her to France to open her store. She started selling hats and later opened more stores and sold clothing.  Her first successful piece was of a dress she made out of an old jersey. Many people asked her where she got it from and she told them she could make them all dresses of their own. “My fortune is built on that old jersey that I’d put on because it was cold in Deauville,” she told author Paul Morand.

During the late 1920s her business was thriving. She launched the iconic Chanel No, 5 , which was her first perfume. That perfume was the first piece of Chanel’s to feature the Chanel brand name. Chanel once said “Perfume “is the unseen, unforgettable, ultimate accessory of fashion. . . . that heralds your arrival and prolongs your departure,”. The deal was concluded where the Wertheimer business (The department stores co-owners)  would take 70% percent of chanel No. 5 profits for producing all of the perfumes in their factories and Théophile Bader ( The department stores co-owner) getting another 20% leaving Chanel with only 10% of the profits. She fought and sued over the years to get the deal negotiated again. 

During the 1920s, Chanel created the legendary Chanel suit. It helped women break the trends of the tight corsets and other tight clothing of that time. The look combined men’s wear and included a short fitted skirt and a matching jacket. Her designs were very unique at the time and shocked everyone. They definitely paved a new way in women’s fashion. She also created her little black dress during this time.

The economic depression during the 1930s had a harmful impact on Chanel’s brand but it was World War II that eventually forced her to shut down and let go all of her employees. After the war she left her home and went and lived in her country house in Roquebrun for a little while. 

Even though many thought her career had come to an end she made a bold comeback. At the time she was 70 years old, making this a risky business decision for her of this age. Critics and others gossiped about her decision but she did not let them sway her. She saw other brands such as Balmain, Dior, and others ruining all the hard work she had done to modernize and progress in women’s dresses. She was determined to put a stop to this. She presented her new collection on February 5, 1954 and the press loved it, making it a breakthrough. It is crazy to think that if she didn’t make that comeback fashion might not be the way it is today. Let’s end by one of my favorite quotes by Chanel “Fashion is not something that exists in dresses only. Fashion is in the sky, in the street, fashion has to do with ideas, the way we live, what is happening.”

Writer at The City Voice

Hi, my name is Anna Wetzel and I am a sophomore at City this School year. I love to sing and I am in choir this year! I enjoy makeup, reading, fashion, photography, and writing. I also really enjoy nature and hiking. If you see me around, don't be scared to say hi.

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