Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Gabrielle 'Coco' 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” - Coco Chanel

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Best known for her little black dress and menswear-inspired fashions, Chanel has not only become a prestigious household name, but she has also become a renowned Icon in the fashion industry.  If you don't know her life story, you better listen up, because I'm going to tell you why she is such an inspirational woman for us gals and fashionistas of all ages.

Let's start it off with a fun fact...did you know Chanel's name wasn't Coco until she was about 18?! Born Gabrielle Bonheur Chanel on August 19, 1883 Chanel was born in the Lorie Valley (a picturesque little area of France...with great wine!) with her unmarried mother, father as well as her 5 siblings. Unfortunately when she was 6, her mother died leaving her father responsible for them all.  

While her siblings were sent off to live with distant relatives, Chanel was sent off to a Catholic orphanage.  I know, I know, this is not starting out to be the most happy story, but it was a blessing in disguise for little Chanel.  While she lived at the orphanage the nuns taught her how to sew!  When she turned 18 she left the orphanage and unknowingly took her very first job in the fashion industry...working for a tailor.  Chanel also loved to sing and frequently sang in caf├ęs and concert halls...another blessing in disguise!  It was here that Chanel adopted the name Coco from a soldier who would come listen to her sing often.

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Shortly after World War 1 started, Coco made the decision to move to the Deauville, where she was a mistress to many ex solders. At the age of 23, she was the mistress of Etienne Balsan and moved into his country home for 3 years. There, Chanel started designing hats that eventually turned into  a commercial venture. As she ventured out, she left Etienne and started a new relationship with a wealthy English industrialist, Arthur Capel, who financed all her shops throughout their 9 year relationship.
Chanel Outside Her Boutique in Deauville

In 1910 she opened her first 2 boutiques in Deauville (A posh area of Normandy, France) and Biarritz (a city on the Bay of Biscay in Southwestern France).  She had her aunt Adrienne and sister Antoinette model her designs by strolling through town in her latest creations.  In 1919, Arthur was tragically killed in a car crash, which Chanel claimed as the single most devastating event in her life.  

 Did you know Coco Chanel was the first fashion designer to create loose women’s jersey garments (this material was traditionally for men’s underwear only). This was a hit, and business exploded...no longer did women have to be suffocated in corsets (thanks Coco!), they too could be in relaxed clothing for once.  This is one of the reasons why she is so inspiring for women, because she didn't care what she was supposed to do, or what was socially cool...she did what she wanted to do and totally changed the game in the name of women throughout her life. 


Soon after, La Maison Chanel was established at 31 rue Cambon in Paris, France.  She lived, worked, and ran her boutique out of it.  It is so fabulous, and still exists (learn more about it...or just check out that gorgeous pics here!).  Again, she didn't care about the norm and followed her dream in 1922 when she was the first designer to launch a fragrance, Chanel No.5.   It is said that No. 5 scent was 'reminiscence' of her lost love, Arthur, and that she turned her grief into creativity to create this 'perfume of eternity'.  It is still sold in the original packaging used in 1921! 


 Why did she name it Chanel No. 5?  Well, perfumer Ernest Beaux brought Coco samples to choose from and she chose his 5th proposal comprised of 80 ingredients (which went against fragrance trends at that time...you go Coco!).  Not to go off on a tangent about this, but there are so many cool facts about No. 5!  Did you know Chanel asked her close artist friends to create the early ads for the perfume?  No big deal, just Andy Warhol and Savador Dali...say what?! There are some really cool facts you just have to read, so check them out here.

Two years later Pierre Wertheimer became her business partner and to this day, the Werthemier’s continue to control her perfume company. And now, the moment we all were waiting for... In 1925 she launched her very famous iconic cardigan jacket and the following year she launched her little black dress...both will forever stay a part of the Chanel Collection till this day.

 In 1954, returning to Paris she took on Christian Dior's overtly feminine New Look. She expanded the signature style with the introduction of pea jackets and bell-bottoms for women. Her new collection, panned by the press in Europe, was a hit here in the States.  Drawn to her boxy cardigan suits, Chanel attracted many powerhouse Hollywood actresses like Audrey Hepburn and Grace Kelly.  A decade later Chanel died, but her legacy lives on as her brand is still one of the luxury fashion brands of today, yesteryear, and tomorrow. 

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Now led by Karl Lagerfeld, Chanel continues to build into an empire of high fashion couture. The Chanel brand is currently worth 7 billion dollars and generates 4.4 billion dollars in revenue.  If you ask me, Chanel is definitely an inspiration proving that no matter where you come from, if you stay determined, confident and creative, you can make even your biggest dream come true.  After all, “In order to be irreplaceable one must always be different”, Chanel wisely said, so don't be afraid to be different Groove Girls!  Don't let anyone tell you what you should say, do, or who you should be and let your light shine through.

Now here are some Groove Girls!

    XoXo,


P.S.

I just couldn't write about Chanel without including this Spring/Summer 2014 fashion show.  You know...they do say if you can only goto one Fashion Week runway show, Chanel's is the one you can't miss. 

Since fashion is art, how genius to set up the show like a living art gallery!

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1 comment :

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XoXo,
Groove Girl