Chanel Bonheur Gabrielle (1883-1971). French dressmaker, known by the nickname Coco. She was born in Saumur, France, on August 19, 1883. Daughter of Henri-Albert Chanel and Jeanne DeVolle, her father was a street vendor and was soon widowed. Additionally he decided to entrust her daughters to the Aubazine orphanage. Chanel is the inventor of some of the most important innovations in the fashion of the 20th century.
Through her creations, Chanel completely transformed female elegance. She no longer based it on structural opulence and the ostentation of details and fabrics, but on simplicity and comfort. She modified the day dress, giving it a touch that was markedly casual and functional. Additionally she gave the evening dress lines that were fluid and reduced to essentials, introducing more comfortable and modern fabrics.
Once she reached the maximum age to stay in the orphanage, Gabrielle began to work as a saleswoman in the Maison Grampayre linen and knitwear shop in Mulins. Furthermore here she deepened the notions of sewing learned from the nuns who raised and educated her.
In the same years, to round up, she began performing as a singer in some cafes. It seems that the name Coco derives from the song Qui qu’a vu Coco?, which she often sang.
As soon as she comes of age he meets the cavalry officer Etienne de Balsan, the son of textile entrepreneurs. Then he became her partner and will also be her first financier.
In 1908 Chanel began making hats in straw and satin ribbons, a novelty compared to the sumptuous and bulky headgear in vogue in those years.
Chanel began her career designing hats, first in Paris, in 1908, and then in Deauville. In these towns, in 1914, she opened her first boutiques. In 1916 she opened a high fashion salon in Biarritz and then another one in Biarritz.
From her very first offerings, Chanel showed an inclination for casual styles inspired by men’s clothing. It was in open contrast with prevailing fashions. Additionally it seemed to apply the healthy living theories of the early part of the century that promoted a healthy life in the open air and clothing that was mindful of the body’s needs.
In 1908 she met Boy Capel, an English industrialist. He was the love of her life, with whom she opened the boutique at 31 rue Cambon, in the Ville Lumière.
Chanel began working on knitwear, skirts and dresses. Fashion at the time was lavish, layers and layers of fabric, ornaments, corsets, full skirts, petticoats, drapes and decorations. She was the first to understand the inconvenience of the dresses and didn’t;t recognize herself in the rigid style of the Belle Époque. She is not a simple seamstress, she is a real fashion designer.
In fact, she often dressed as a man. Inspired by the male wardrobe, the designer decides to indulge the female body, creating long straight skirts, cardigans and blouses with soft belts at the waist.
Chanel prefers jersey, an elastic and comfortable fabric, translating it into undercoats and real garments, including simple dresses in equally easy colors. It is the end of the era of excesses, it is the time of Coco Chanel who gives freedom to women.
Her definitive launch in the world of fashion occurred in Paris in 1920, when she established her firm at Rue de Chambon 30.
Chanel clothes and feminine liberation
The Great War fed her idea of democratic style, during which all the extravagances of the past give way to sobriety and rigor. It was due the lack of fabrics, used for other primary purposes, and for the comfort of women, which now they participate in daily life, taking men’s jobs as they were at the front.
The hand-knitted sweater, and then industrially packaged, remains one of the most significant innovations proposed by Chanel. The mix of pieces derived from the male wardrobe with elements from the most traditional female wardrobe became a synonym of her style. For example the tailored suit composed of a man’s jacket and a straight skirt or trousers, which were until that moment part of men’s clothing.
But they were too simple. Starting in 1924 she decides to start a work on accessories. She also focused on a less luxurious and more practical idea, that of costume jewellery. Pearls, long gold chains, settings of real precious stones with fake ones, and crystals that looked like diamonds were the necessary accessories of Chanel clothing and recognizable signs of her griffe.
The Petite Robe Noir
The colors she uses most are dark blue, beige and gray. In the mid-20s, Chanel presents a revolutionary garment, the petite robe noir. The famous little black dress with no signs at the waist, often enriched with white cuffs and collars or combined with caps and pearls. It was a tangible confirmation of an obstinate democratization.
Until that moment no woman had ever dared to wear black, except in moments of mourning. Let alone dared to wear such a short skirt outside the bedroom.
The Chanel tailored suit caught the attention of the female public. It was thanks to the absolute simplicity of its line and the accurary of the cutting and the seams. Additionally the use of soft and well-draping fabrics such as gabardine, cheviot, vicuna, and tweed, in addition to jersey, offered in a shocking mix of understated shades such as beige, grey, and navy blue.
Chanel’s style is based on the apparent repetition of basic models. Variation is found in fabric patterns and details, according to her belief that “fashion passes, style remains.”
In 1921 Chanel is the first designer to associate her name with a perfume, the first unconsciously to work on an idea of life style. In 1923 the most famous fragrance of all time was released, Chanel N° 5.
Five because Chanel chooses the fifth olfactory proposal made by the perfume company of Ernest Beaux and Henri Robert, with whom she starts collaborating. Even the bottle design is rigid, simple, square, unlike the baroque ampoules of the feminine perfumes of the time.
Chanel’s intuition as the first business woman in fashion is also in this. Perceiving changes in the air and following them, or if necessary, condition them.
The launch of the first perfume was followed by many others: N° 22 in 1922, Gardenia in 1925, Bois des ¦les in 1926,Cuir de Russie in 1927, Sycomore, Une Idée in 1930, Jasmin in 1932, Pour Monsieur in 1955, and N° 19 in 1970.
The 30s and important friendships
Introduced by her friend Misia Sert, Chanel meets Stravinsky, with whom she had a relationship. He makes friends with Picasso and many exponents of the Parisian elite. She came to design costumes for Sergei Diaghilev‘s ballets and for some films by Jean Cocteau.
Her history with Hugh Grosvenor, Duke of Westminster, with whom she remains tied for several years also contributes to her international fame.
In 1927 her creations landed in London, with the opening of the first store in Mayfair. Hollywood also begins to commission her clothes and another of her iconic pieces makes its way, the suit, for which she chooses soft fabrics such as tweed, gabardine and vicuña.
In 1934 she developed her costume jewellery creations. Opening a special atelier where she was supported by the talent of Earl Etienne de Beaumont and Duke Fulco di Ventura, and so, along side high fashion, she increased the production of accessories. In fact, the birth of her quilted bag with shoulder chain, copied by generations of producers, dates to 1930. Additionally in the middle of that decade, Chanel enjoyed her greatest fame. The atelier employed 4,000 workers and sold about 28,000 items a year all over the world.
The outbreak of the Second World War required a sudden closure of the maison. Chanel is even accused of alleged collaboration with the Nazis, so she was forced to close the rue de Cambon headquarters, leaving only the perfume shop open.
The return of Coco Chanel
In 1954 Chanel was 71 years old, but her interest and her desire to work did not stop her. If in the 30s his style had dueled with the imaginative and exuberant collections of Elsa Schiaparelli, in the 50s he has to deal with Christian Dior‘s New Look, which reintroduces the corset, the guêpière and the prevalence of corolla silhouettes, flower women are reborn. Chanel’s return was a success, women all over the world fought to have one of her creations. And one of those was Jacqueline Kennedy.
Chanel is outraged and furious, she considers Dior an armchair decorator and the enemy of women.
In 1955 she launched another timeless classic, the 2.55 handbag, in quilted leather with a shoulder strap, a metal chain, woven with leather.
Chanel was new again, and she was unique. In 1957 Dior died, Coco received the Neiman Marcus Award in Dallas, the Oscar of Fashion, which consecrates her suits as sartorial masterpieces. To balance the extreme clean lines of her suits are the lion head buttons, the designer’s zodiac sign, with camellia, her favorite flower, or with the double C, the official symbol of the fashion house since 1959.
Her style identified clothes and accessories. They now have become status symbols. For example the two-color sandal with closed front and open back, created for Chanel in the 1960s by the French shoemaker André Massaro.
The myth continues
Chanel today is recognized as a myth, its name is in itself synonymous with style. It is the origin of a way of dressing women that has changed fashion, and is what we know today.
The Chanel brand is an empire with almost five billion euros in turnover. The headquarters of the maison is located on the corner of rue Cambon and rue Saint-Honoré in Paris.
One of the cult places of the French capital. From humble origins to a true icon, Chanel has revolutionized fashion, guided by the search for an authentic and comfortable femininity.
Linear and functional forms, elegance, poor luxury, quality and innovation. Introduces the pants, designed and thought on a female body, the small black dress, the women’s suit jacket, her perfumes, the combination of costume jewelery with high fashion. Chanel was a visionary and her intelligence and brilliance gave women the wardrobe we know, and we owe this to her.
Gabrielle Chanel died on January 10, 1971 in a room at the Ritz Hotel in Paris. The management of the fashion house passes to his assistants Gaston Berthelot and Ramon Esparza, the atelier to Jean Cazaubon and Yvonne Dudel.
The Chanel brand has given birth, over the years, to several companies controlled by the family Wertheimer. Additionally it also differentiated its production that now ranges from cosmetics to jewellery and watches. In 1997 Chanel acquired the French company Erès, specialized in bathing suits, and which has maintained its creative and commercial autonomy.
In 1978, alongside the haute couture, the first line of prêt-à-porter, designed by Philippe Guibourgé, was introduced.
Karl Lagerfeld’s arrival
In 1983 Karl Lagerfeld landed at the maison, the following year the designer became creative director of all the lines of the brand, including the Cruise collection and accessories.
Lagerfeld perfectly embodies Chanel’s idea of style, giving it a personal touch, but following the guiding lines that the designer has imposed. Tweed, patchwork, bouclé, larhji trousers, knee-length skirts, long or very short jackets, velvet evening coats with white collars. Chanel codes that find a modern translation from season to season with Lagerfeld.
The brand today is one of the most recognizable in the world. Currently it is in the hands of Alain and Gerard Wertheimer, grandsons of Pierre Wertheimer, business partner of Coco himself.
The distribution has more than 200 international boutiques, while the communication focuses on testimonials such as Catherine Deneuve, Nicole Kidman, Kristen Stewart, Audrey Tatou, Cara Delevigne and Kaia Gerber.
Even Marilyn Monroe had herself photographed with perfume N ° 5, this image remains one of the most famous in the history of marketing. Another important figure was Jackie Kennedy, who even on the day of JFK’s assassination was dressed in Chanel.
In 1999 the J12 wristwatch debuted, a small jewel of high technology whose perfect circular shape is created in absolute black. Manufactured in the workshops of La Chaux-de-Fonds in Switzerland, it is designed by Jacques Helleu. It was conceived for men, although it also fits a woman’s wrist. Available in three different straps, is waterproof to a depth of 60.96 feet.
There are several films made on Chanel’s life: Chanel Solitaire of 1981, Coco Avant Chanel and Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky, of 2009, are some of these, there are countless printed publications dedicated to one of the most influential women of the twentieth century and to his contribution to the history of costume.
There are many famous phrases, based above all on the concept that luxury is not wealth, but the absence of vulgarity. Ironic towards men or his rivals.
Good taste in dressing was something innate for her. The sensitivity of elegance and attention to the female gender are the qualities that have distinguished her throughout history.
Chanel at the beginning of the century
Chanel participated in the Donna Sotto le Stelle (Woman Under the Stars) on the stairs of Santa Trinità dei Monti in Rome.
In 2001 For the film Gosford Park by Robert Altman, the actress Kristin Scott Thomas.(she playedLady Silvia McCordle) has personally chosen the jewels that she will wear. A necklace and matching earrings from the Fountain series, in platinum with 550 diamonds, and the Cosmos bracelet, with 850 diamonds. From the salons of the Ritz, in November 1932, to Altman’s movie, in 2002. Seventy years of history begun with a Collection designed by Coco Chanel, precisely in the year in which the film is set, 1932. The jewels are part of the historical archive of the maison.
In 2010 Chanel reopened of the historic boutique in via Sant’Andrea in Milan. This was part of a renovation of all the Chanel boutiques worldwide (there are 100), carried out by the architect Peter Marino. He wanted to follow Gabrielle Chanel’s philosophy that “the most beautiful things are the simplest, and nothing is as beautiful as an empty space”. Milan follows the renovations in New York, Paris, Tokyo, Seoul, Vienna, and Mexico City.
Karl Lagerfeld’s collections for Chanel
Since his first collection for Chanel in 1983, Lagerfeld has seduced the media and dictated fashion trends around the world.
Chanel fashion shows are always the most anticipated of Paris Fashion Week. In recent years the suspense has grown further. It is thanks to the choice of the set, cared in every detail and able to tell its own story with the creations.
It was Lagerfeld who deserves the credit for interpreting Chanel’s values according to the needs of today. He brought constant innovation but leaving untouched Chanel’s unmistakable style.
The romantic Collection of Karl Lagerfeld for Chanel is presented at the Jardin des Tuileries in Paris, in a completely exceptional setting. A completely transparent tent-structure very similar to a greenhouse, with roses, camellias, clouds of silk, and chiffon. The clothes have a thin and slender line, with extremely tight dresses that extol a very feminine but slim, threadlike, and long-limbed body. Soft and delicate rose petals, sugared or mother-of-pearl. Sequin flowers on printed dresses and on the head a very light camellia in layers of rose-colored chiffon. There are extravagant and original accessories: gold rings made of nails, palm bracelets, and winged shoes with titanium heels.
For the SS 2012 collection, the show is presented in a replica of the corridor of an airplane and spectators were seated on armchairs. Unquestionably the theme is recurring since 2008. In fact, in that year the brand presented the Chanel Cruise Collection in the hangar of Santa Monica airport. In that occasion models got off a real plane with the Chanel logo.
Chanel’s Fall 2014 fashion show was unique and original. Designer Karl Lagerfeld went with this original idea to create an entire supermarket into a fashion runway inside the Grand Palais. The models paraded in aisles. They were flanked by shelves full of bottles, tea boxes and Chanel biscuits. They were grabbing products to read the labels, busy pushing hair and choose fruit, baskets in hand and go shopping with the Chanel logo. Among the famous faces, the singer Rihanna and the top model Cara Delevigne, testimonial of the brand.
Stefan Lubrina was responsible for all the customizable mise-en-scene packaging and labels. The play of words on the packaging were labeled with a twist from Chanel’s founder’s name and collections. The “Boite a Bobo de Coco” for the first aid kit, the “Boy” hair mousse for men with the tagline “peau d’humeur sauvage”. And then again the “Coco Carbonne and Coco Color” for cleaning detergent.
It was also a first for Chanel to introduce sneakers to its ready-to-wear collection. In fact, the brand expanded on the sporty collection with slouchy trousers and workout knitwear. The most fun and inventive part of the show was the candy necklace Chanel cuffs and the plastic wrap purse and the plastic wrap purse.
2015 – Brasserie Gabrielle
The gastronomic theme returns and to present his AW 2015-2016 collection. The designer recreates a French wooden brasserie. Models with an elegant pace parade and have a coffee in front of the public of the Paris Fashion Week.
Additionally the location, the Grand Palais, is renamed for the occasion Brasserie Gabrielle, a tribute to Madame Coco, of course. Burgundy sofas, white tablecloths, essential service: the show has recreated a bistro of the kind you might find in St. Germain des Prés complete with a counter, waiters and bartenders.
The dresses, as often happens during the Chanel fashion shows, are, however, left aside, to make room for the show signed by Lagerfeld.
The cruise collection – 2015
In 2015, Karl Lagerfeld decided to present his cruise collection in the Middle East in Dubai. When interviewed why he made this choice he responded that in his eyes “Dubai is the world of tomorrow”. Additionally all the outfits were inspired by the patterns of the keffiyeh, a traditional middle eastern scarf. The models were wearing tunics, big white silver jewelry and slippers. The design of the room was a reflection of Arabs culture; guests were sitting at the same level of the floor with cushions and lanterns. Many celebrities and important guests such as Vanessa Paradis, Tilda Swinton and Princess Amira Al-Taweel, wife of Saudi billionaire Walid ben Talal attended the show.
The SS 2016 collection was presented at the Gran Palais in Paris, set up as if it was an airport.
Lately the setting of Chanel’s fashion shows is always very theatrical. For the presentation of the Haute Couture collections the show was set in a large casino. Here various guests “played” at the tables talking to each other. Among them there were Julianne Moore, Kristen Stewart, Rita Ora, Vanessa Paradis and her daughter, as the models paraded around.
2017 – Chanel Blasts Off
Another scenario to remember is that of the glass dome of the Grand Palais. The trademark of the double C, has recreated the surreal scenario of a lunar landscape dominated by a black and white rocket made in scale 1.1. Additionally Chanel’s futuristic effect can be read in the pearly glitter that reigns supreme over fabrics, applications and accessories.
The two classic colors, black and white, dominate the collection. Additionally they have a stellar effect for the game combined with luminous threads, feathers, beads, tulle and sequins.
The hairstyles recall the 70s effect of a reinterpreted Barbarella in a futuristic key exactly like the DNA of the brand led by Karl Lagerfeld which always remains iconic, linked to the inspiration of Gabrielle Chanel, but in continuous, surprising and unique evolution.
After planning, structuring and implementing its strategic plan to conquer the universe, Chanel is ready to travel into the deepest space of Deep Space.
For SS 2018, obviously at the Grand Palais, he created a jungle with a hyper-realistic appearance. Complete with waterfalls and a footbridge over the river, the inspiration is the Verdon, in Haute Provence.
Also for the Fall-Winter 2018 fashion show the starting point is nature, in the Grand Palais in Paris, as per tradition. It was set up as if it were a wood. Large cardboard with photos of tree trunks on the sides. A row of old oaks in the center and yellow leaves mixed with moss on the ground. Indeed it perfumed the air six months in advance.
The dresses are more bon-ton than usual while presenting the classic Chanel lines. Made of tweed suits with a jacket and skirt up to the knee accompanied by pearls. The autumn colors camouflaged themselves with the leaves and trees around.
Chanel’s iconic bouclé is reinterpreted in winter colors such as black, brown, dark green, illuminated by fuchsia accessories. The coats are oversized. The blazers and long skirts.
Short and long quilted and lurex duvets parade. Among the many models, Kaia Gerber, the 16-year-old daughter of Cindy Crawford, also paraded, while in the front row were actress Lily Allen, Vanessa Paradis and Carla Bruni.
During the Paris Fashion Week,.Lagerfeld’s woman isn’t simply feminine, but ultra feminine.
In 2019 a change of scenery in the Grand Palais, from supermarket to the creation of a beach with an ocean and lifeguards. Former Baywatch Pamela Anderson was one of the front row guests. The beach theme included bikinis, sun hats, bag in the form of a beach ball and a parasol print. Additionally the brand didn’t miss to show off their signature style with colorful tweed skirts, suits and the bold iconic logo worn as accessories. The water used to create the ocean was reprocessed by the Paris sewage system. The sand was recycled by the construction industry which made the brand’s drive on sustainability.
In 2005 The Metropolitan Museum of New York celebrates the French maison with a big retrospective called, simply, Chanel. It is a tribute which traces the path of the maison established by Gabrielle Chanel in 1920 up to today.
Today’s Chanel is a true revolution. It has transformed the creative idea of a woman. From being marked the style of our time into a mental projection in which the concept of luxury has taken on a particular dimension.
Chanel is a symbol, an icon that preserves the spirit of creative freedom.
Karl Lagerfeld remains and represents the best interpreter of that spirit. His ability to create yet another collection full of styles, where past and future mix uniquely, affirms his greatness.
More than a stylist, Lagerfeld is a great screenwriter of the aesthetic life of women. In fact, he manages to communicate with women. He doesn’t speak, but uses only his creations, which are able to reach the hearts of women and generate happiness and emotions.
More than any other Hollywood director, he has been able.to preserve a story that will continue to live by its own light.
Virginie Viard creative director
In February 2019 Karl Lagerfeld passed away at 85, leaving a deep void in the world of fashion. Additionally the absence of the designer at Chanel’s latest Haure Couture show had already made us think that something was wrong with the Kaiser’s health.
His last show was in a Tyrolean ski village, which was covered in fake snow and Chanel skis.
After his death, the French maison appointed Virginie Viard as new creative director. The designer had known Lagerfeld since 1987 and collaborated with him for years until she became his right hand.
The Chanel FW20 Haute Couture collection was inspired by the Karl Lagerfeld’s glamorous life. In fact, when Karl used to go to “Le Palace” he was always escorted by chic and sophisticated woman who were eccentric too. The collection was revealed in a short video by Mikael Jansson on Chanel’s website and Instagram account. The audience watched the 30 bold and sophistacted pieces, featuring rich tweed two-pieces and ultra-romantic silhouettes. This was because the brand couldn’t do a physical event. In fact, restrictions were in place due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Among Chanel, many other brands had to reinvent how they showcased their new collections.
The next collection show of haute couture was done in a picturesque garden. A show inspired from the orphanage where Coco Chanel grew up with her siblings in the late 19th Century. The garments on the runway were very basic with the camellia motif and the classic skirt suits. Additionally what the new creative director Viard, was hoping to prove that haute couture isn’t just for special occasions.
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