The Coco Chanel Fact File

Who is Coco Chanel? Well she is the woman behind Chanel bags, Chanel perfume and Chanel Sunglasses of course.

The above is a basic answer- one which doesn’t fully explore the complicated yet luxurious life of one of the world’s most successful and timeless fashion designers.

We’ll answer some of the unknown facts which will shape the answer that you give to the first question: Who is Coco Chanel?

Coco Chanel Fact File

She was born into a poor background

Gabrielle Bonheur “Coco” Chanel was born in Saumur, France in 1883. Her mother, Eugenie Jeanne Devolle was an unmarried laundrywoman who worked in a poorhouse. Her father was a street vendor who peddled work clothes and undergarments. When she was 12, Chanel’s mother died of bronchitis and her father sent her, alongside her two sisters to a catholic orphanage in Correze.

She was once a cabaret singer

Living in a Catholic boarding house, Chanel was able to find work as a seamstress and also sang cabaret in a club that was popular with cavalry officers. It was here that she acquired her nickname ‘Coco’ and met the wealthy textile heir Etienne Balsan, who introduced her to the upper-class circles.

She once designed hats

When Chanel first started out as a fashion designer she created hats. Funded by a wealthy admirer she designed hats for the aristocratic ladies of Paris. Of course she soon branched out when she had the opportunity and fully showcased the extent of her ‘out there’ vision for ladies fashion.

She revolutionised women’s fashion

Chanel revolutionised the way in which women dressed themselves. At a time when corsets were still fashionable and expected, Coco Chanel designed garments that were based on menswear. Loose fitting jumpers, tweed suits and high-waisted trousers for example, championed comfort for women. She also introduced staple wardrobe pieces such as the little black dress and the mini skirt.  Without Coco Chanel’s daring nature and desire to modernise fashion for women, females today may still be wearing a corset.

She banished pale skin

Why do we have an obsession with developing the perfect tan? Because Coco Chanel made it fashionable. After suffering with sunburn during a cruise holiday, her followers mistakenly took it as the next fashion trend and followed her lead. Sunbathing became everyone’s favourite past time.

She designed the bestselling perfume of all time

Chanel No5 is the best-selling perfume in the world. Launched in 1921 a bottle of the iconic fragrance sells every 30 seconds, over 100 years after it was created. The sales of Chanel’s perfume funded some of her darker years in which her fashion career suffered.

World War II had a big impact on Chanel’s businesses

When war broke out in 1939 Chanel closed five of her Paris based boutiques, claiming that it wasn’t the right time for fashion. By 1945 only one of Chanel’s businesses remained open. She continued to sell accessories and fragrance as American soldiers would often pay a visit when they passed through town.

She was an accused Nazi sympathiser

During World War II Chanel resided at The Ritz hotel, a known favourite place of residence for the upper-echelons of the German military.  During this time she began a love-affair with a German soldier which fuelled speculation that she was passing intelligence to the Nazi side.

How much is the Chanel brand worth?

Under the continued ownership of Karl Lagerfeld the Chanel brand is now estimated to have a net worth $19 billion.

Why did Coco Chanel die?

In 1971 Coco Chanel was discovered to have died from natural causes in her Hotel Ritz apartment aged 87. Her final resting place is located in the Bois-de-Vaux Cemetery, Lausanne, Switzerland. Most of Chanel’s estate was inherited by her nephew Andre Palasse.

So who is Coco Chanel? Is she still just a designer who created your favourite pair of Chanel Prescription Glasses?

Chanel’s legacy as a designer still shapes the fashion choices we make today. She modernised fashion in a way that was unthinkable at thatpoint in history. Her legacy, along with the brand that she created has certainly stood the test of time. All this success generated from a girl who found herself in an orphanage at the age of 12, there’s no doubt that Gabrielle Bonheur “Coco” Chanel is a true inspiration.