Coco Chanel: The fabulous life of a fashion genius
Fashion fades, only style remains the same - Coco Chanel
Where do I begin?
How do I introduce a legend, who completely revolutionized the fashion industry during the advent of the 20th century?
How do I introduce a woman, who wanted to showcase subtlety and innovation in her clothing line at a time when women were forced to wear uncomfortable, fussy dresses?
How do I introduce Gabrielle Bonheur 'Coco' Chanel?
Mademoiselle Chanel was a French fashion designer who pioneered timeless products that are still relevant to this day, such as trademark tweed suits, little black dresses, luxurious leather handbags, jewelry items and iconic perfumes, etc.
More importantly, she liberated women from the clutches of the 'corseted silhouette', popularizing the acceptance of a casual, comfortable dresses as the new standard post-World War I era.
At Rustic Town Collection, even my endeavour has always been to offer unique and innovative products to consumers that would perhaps revolutionise the market in terms of complementing today's lifestyle. Right from Leather Satchels and messengers to iPad covers and backpacks, my aim has also been to offer simple, elegant products that offer style and functionality together.
Chanel and her products have been my inspiration to become an avid fashion enthusiast. Her ambition and courage to do things at that time has always fascinated me. She will always remain my first fashion icon.
Let's take a short look at her life and her long list of achievements:
Born in Saumur, France on August 19th 1883 to parents of a modest background, Gabrielle Chanel was later raised by nuns in an orphanage who taught her sewing – a lifelong skill that would ascend her to success later on.
Her famous nickname, 'Coco', came during her brief career as a singer. “It was a shortened version of 'cocotte', the French word for ‘kept woman',” Chanel had once said in an interview with a magazine.
First taste of Success
Chanel first rose to prominence in 1910 when she opened her first shop in Paris selling simple and elegant hats. A big hit with French actresses during that time, her designs established her reputation.
Three years later, she opened another boutique in Deauville (France) and introduced a collection of sportswear (hats, jackets, sweaters, etc). Her interesting use of the Jersey fabric, at a time when it was strictly associated with men's underwear, reshaped the dynamics of the industry successfully. Thanks to her designs, women became more empowered with their bodies and sexuality.
Iconic Chanel No.5 Scent
In 1921, Chanel unveiled her first fragrance, the iconic 'Chanel No.5', presumably called so as it was the fifth scent presented to her. This signature scent is the best selling perfume in the world, a truly iconic fashion product history has ever witnessed. “Perfume is the unseen, unforgettable, ultimate accessory of fashion that heralds your arrival and prolongs your departure,” Chanel had commented once. The very next year, she launched 'Chanel No.22'.
The Chanel Tweed Suit
In 1924, Chanel, on one of her frequent trips to Scotland, discovered 'tweed', a rough woolen fabric traditionally associated with men. It inspired her to create 'The Chanel tweed suit', another of her iconic creations.
The suit consisted of a collarless jacket and a well-fitted skirt. Emphasizing on comfort, she made revolutionary changes in the designs for quick and easy movement. Borrowing elements of men’s wear, she added pockets that could hold things. She made sure women could do body movements in the dress- walk around, hop, run or bend while wearing the suit, without making it look vulgar or obscene to the prying eyes. It was the time to say bye-bye to corsets.
The Little Black Dress
In 1926, Chanel created the iconic 'little black dress'. The sheer courage of using black color (which is associated with grief and mourning) and highlighting it to create an evening wear was a masterstroke. It shook the fashion world; critics hailed it as an 'instant classic'. Vogue magazine described the innovative design as “the 'ford' dress, the frock, that all the world will wear.”
Bijoux De Diamants
In 1932, she added another feather to her cap, presenting a dazzling exhibition of fine jewelry, titled 'Bijoux De Diamants'.
The 2.55 Luxury Leather Handbag
In February of 1955, Chanel launched the iconic 2.55 quilted handbag (named after the date of its creation – February (2nd month, and 55 being the year).
Apparently, the story goes that Coco was tired of carrying her handbags in her arms and decided to design a handbag that freed up her hands. Inspired by the straps on soldiers’ bags, she added thin straps onto her bag and introduced the resulting design.
She combined leather with a gold chain to create the iconic shoulder strap that still adorns the shoulder of popular Hollywood actresses. The strong and light chain allowed the woman's hands to remain free.
The leather handbag is a gold standard in terms of its design and style. Selling leather handbags for women myself, I am totally in awe of that classic design that has stayed in my mind all these years as well. That's the sign of a truly evergreen design!
In 1957, Chanel created the legendary two-tone slingback shoe. Colored in beige with contrasting black toe cap, the inimitable style created a nice effect, lengthening the leg and shortening the foot.
After a tumultuous period of alleged controversies and scandals post the World War era, Chanel breathed her last on January 10th 1971.
A little more than a decade after her death (1983), designer Karl Lagerfeld took the reins of her company to continue the Chanel legacy.
Today, the 'Chanel' brand continues to flourish successfully, generating millions of dollars in sales each year; all made possible by one lady, who dared to dream big at a time when it was impossible to do so.
Thank you, Coco, for being one special human being and a special woman. You paved the way for entrepreneurs like us to take inspiration from you.
“Que ma légende de prospérer et de se épanouir. Je souhaite une longue et heureuse vie!” (May my legend prosper and thrive. I wish it a long and happy life!) - Coco Chanel
Your legacy will always thrive in our hearts, Coco. Always.
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