The life of legendary fashion designer Gabrielle Chanel – most commonly known as “Coco Chanel” -- has all of the intrigue and drama of a best-selling novel. There is poverty, risk, luck, love, success, disappointment and riches. And then there’s the classic Chanel suit she created back in the 1920s, which started as a haute couture item. This timeless piece has survived the generations and now, available as luxury ready-to-wear in Chanel boutiques, continues to be a must-have on the lists of many celebrities and fashionistas alike.
The Chanel Reputation
The House of Chanel, which is headquartered in Paris, is known today throughout the world for its beautiful and well-crafted fashionable clothes. In addition to its traditional suits, over the years Chanel has become recognized for its version of the little black dress, Chanel No. 5 Perfume, its costume jewelry and its quilted handbags and shoes.
The fashion House of Chanel first came into being close to a century ago, when in 1909, Coco Chanel opened a small shop selling ladies hats. She had been raised in a French orphanage and was inspired by the simple lines of the nuns’ clothes. Before long, she had incorporated her take on fashion to design comfortable and elegant pieces for women, many of whom were growing tired of the restrictions inherent in wearing corsets and long dresses with petticoats, which were in style at the time. Chanel’s innovation took and she quickly gained a reputation among wealthy and fashionable Europeans. By the 1920s, with the financial support of a male suitor, she was able to grow her business and to open her now-famous couture house at 31 rue Cambon in Paris in the midst of the great depression. This is where Chanel maintains its headquarters today.
The business has grown over the years to incorporate elegant and easy-to-wear women’s clothing that became popular among women in Europe and the United States. In the 1950s and 60s, Coco Chanel was commissioned by various Hollywood studios to dress celebrities like Audrey Hepburn and Elizabeth Taylor.
As Chanel’s reputation grew, so did her following. In fact, in 1957, Chanel’s spring collection received the Fashion Oscar and she honored by the fashion world as “the most influential designer of the twentieth century.”