Gabriel Boner Chanel came to light in the summer of 1883 in a small town in western France. She was born into the ordinary family of a sock merchant and a former peasant. Parents paid almost no attention to little Gabrielle, and after the death of her mother at 12 years of age, her father and at all gave her to a Catholic orphanage for upbringing. In the orphanage, the future Coco spent 8 years, and reached her 20th anniversary, left a monastic shelter and took a place in a haberdashery shop in the town of Moulin.
There are as many as 2 versions of Coco’s set-top box appearance in the legendary name: one of them was glued to Gabrielle because of the fashionable then song “Who saw Coco y Tracadero”, which she endlessly hummed. Chanel herself explained it by a childhood nickname “coco”, which means “chicken”, which gently called her father.
The young girl without dowry and connections well understood that she would only be able to succeed through male patronage. Therefore, acquaintance with the young wealthy bourgeois Etienne Balsan became a great fortune for her and for several years predetermined fate. It was in his Paris apartment that the process of sewing neat hats that brought Chanel first popularity was launched. Minimalistic models without feathers instantly won the love of French fashionistas.
After a while, Coco meets Balsan’s buddy Arthur Capel and between them a novel lasting nine years. It is thanks to his financial investments that Chanel first opens a shop of ladies’ hats, and in 1910, inspired by his success, and the first atelier of his own on Cambon Street.
In 1913 Chanel boutiques opened at once in two French cities: Deauville and Biarizza. In addition to hats, sportswear was sold in stores, as well as comfortable items made of flannel, jersey and linen.
Coco herself, whose figure was not distinguished by particular femininity, gravitated toward convenience and simple silhouettes. She believed it was time for pathos and excessive luxury to give way to practical elegance.
By 1915 Chanel’s clothes are becoming more popular, she is opening her first boutique in Paris, and Harper’s Bazaar magazine calls her one of French women’s most coveted designers. After a year, her business becomes so profitable that she returns all the money invested to Capel.
In 1918, Coco acquires his own building on Combon Street, which would later become a world-famous fashion house. And in 1919 — the name Chanel was officially registered as a trade mark.
In the same year 1919, a great tragedy occurs in the life of the couturier: Arthur Capel dies in a car crash. Because by that time her lover was married, though not ending her relationship with Chanel, she could not officially grieve for him. There is a legend that the modest little black dress she invented precisely to dress in mourning all women, including herself.
In 1920 in Biarizza Chanel gets acquainted with the emigrated Russian aristocrat — the nephew of the last emperor — Dmitry Pavlovich Romanov. This novel became not only a symbol of the “Russian period” in the work of the designer, but gave the world the legendary Chanel perfume №5.
Coco by that time already hatched the idea of creating her own perfume, but she herself in compositions and notes completely didn’t understand. Prince Dmitry Pavlovich introduced her to a French-born Russian perfumer, Ernest Bo, who, like many, had to leave Russia after the revolution. For a whole year, Bo experimented with components and eventually presented to the Koko trial 5 scented breakers. Most of all she liked the fragrance at number 5, besides the five was the favorite couturier number, which determined the choice. It was the first perfume synthesized from 80 components and did not repeat the smell of a single flower, as was customary before.
Perfume was announced in 1921 and instantly became a bestseller. Enterprising Chanel sent out a few vials in advance as a gift to famous ladies and thus by the time of the sale for Chanel №5 was already building a queue.
In 1924, Chanel reflected on the widespread distribution of her perfume, which until then was intended only for buyers of her boutique. The owner of the Lafayette Gallery introduced her to entrepreneur Pierre Wertheimer, and all together they created a company called Chanel Parfam, which took perfume to an absolutely different level. The only downside was the fact that Coco owned just 10% of the perfume business, which soon became a serious stumbling block between the partners.
During these years Chanel begins to produce her own jewelry, ranging from jewelry to jewels. Pearl threads and famous diamond chokers have forever become the hallmark of couturiers on a par with perfume and tweed jackets.
A love of tweed, like jockeys’ costumes, waterproof raincoats and sweaters appeared in couturier collections during the affair with the Duke of Westminster — the longest-running novel of her entire life.
In 1931, in Monte Carlo, Coco met the successful Hollywood producer Samuel Goldwyn, who suggested she, for fabulous money, sew costumes for film industry stars. Chanel accepted the offer, however rather quickly they became disillusioned with each other. For Hollywood, her democratic style wasn’t sensational enough, and Chanel didn’t betray her ideals for money.
World War II forced couturiers to suspend production and close all boutiques. Chanel laid off all the staff, and herself settled into the Ritz Hotel, which housed the headquarters of German officers. There took place her acquaintance with Baron von Dinklagen and soon they began having an affair. Baron served in military intelligence, and Chanel herself, according to sources, praised and supported Hitler’s policies in every possible way. After the liberation of France in 1944 Coco Chanel was arrested for aiding the fascists. She was saved only by the assistance of Winston Churchill in exchange for leaving France. Afterwards, Chanel, along with von Dinklagen, leaves for Switzerland and goes into the shadow of the fashion industry for almost a decade.
As early as the early forties, Chanel, realizing what an unprofitable perfume production contract she had signed, began a legal battle with Pierre Wertheimer. In May 1941, she even sent a petition to German officials for the legalization of her sole rights to “Chanel Parpham”, appealing to the fact of the partner’s Jewish ancestry. However, she was unaware that Wertheimer had forethought transferred the rights to run the firm to French businessman Félix Amio, who returned the property to the owner after the war ended. Coco then decided to release the spirits under her own name and launched them on sale, thus putting the profitability of Chanel Parfam at risk. This forced Pierre Wertheimer to sit with Chanel at the negotiating table, and on 17 May 1947 they signed a new contract under which the designer relied profit from the realization of perfume during the war, 2% of the proceeds from perfume sales worldwide, as well as a monthly end-of-life stipend.
Chanel returned to Paris in 1953 and found it very different. At the top of fashionable Olympus were ruled by men: Christian Dior, Cristóbal Balenciaga, Robert Piguet — and they sought to escape the horrors of the war years through luxury and forgotten femininity. Chanel’s era was forgotten and she had to be reminded of herself anew. However internally resisted Coco, but without financial assistance in the new world she was not done, and she was forced to turn to Wertheimer for funds. The wealthy Jew accepted her offer and did not guess: his descendants still hold a controlling stake in the house of Chanel to this day.
Chanel returned triumphantly to the fashion world in 1954, presenting to the public a signature collection of jewels and updated tweed suits adorned with black and white pearls. French critics met her return somewhat coolly, and here the Americans and Britons were in complete delight. However, after 3 seasons in her native France, former glory and respect returned to her: clothes from Chanel henceforth become synonymous with respectability and success.
In February 1955, Chanel House released the iconic 2/55 bag with quilted texture and a long chain of gold or silver. These bags, which first began to be worn not only in the hand but also on the shoulder, on a par with perfume and tweed are still symbols of the Fashionable House.
Over the next decade before the style, Chanel capitulated unconditionally to Hollywood. Audrey Hepburn, Elizabeth Taylor and even Jacqueline Kennedy herself could be seen wearing her clothes. In addition, Coco actively supported talented people of art, in particular, she provided material support to Pablo Picasso and Salvador Dalí.
In 1965, Chanel takes over the production of shoes and produces sharp-nosed ballet flats without a heel, as well as beige shoes with a black cape that visually reduced the size of the leg. All the next 6 years until her death she worked actively and fruitfully.
Coco Chanel died in the winter of 1971 at the age of 87. Despite the large number of friends and adores, there was only a maid next to her in the final minutes. Buried her, as she bequeathed, in Switzerland, in the only place where she felt protected.