I have seen her biographical movies several times, and every time I watch them, I become more more amazed of how Gabrielle became “Chanel”, The world’s oldest fashion company and the first fashion company owned by a woman. You are going to be amazed of her story, and once you’ve finished reading this passage, you’ll know why women wear what they are wearing today.
Gabrielle Chanel was born in 1883 in France to a very unwealthy family. At the age of six, her mother died of illness; Their father was very poor to take care of them, so he sent them to an orphanage of the Catholic monastery of Aubazine; Gabrielle and her sister, Julie, didn’t hear from their father ever since. School vacations were spent with relatives in the provincial capital of Moulins where Gabrielle learnt to sew with more flourish than the nuns at the monastery had been able to teacher her. When she turned eighteen, she left the orphanage, and took up work for a local tailor.
She was the best sewer in her tailor, and a lot of customers would come just for Gabrielle to help them with their clothes. One day, her best friend Bette decided that they should go to a Moulin, and there she met her first love, Etienne Balsan, a rich playboy. They fell in love and they moved together in a village outside Paris. He encouraged her dreams when he saw that her hat designing were incredible. Etienne took Gabrielle once for a horse ride, and saw that she was wear trousers, the idea of women wearing trousers at that time wasn’t acceptable, but Gabrielle didn’t care what people thought of how she wore. One afternoon, Etienne’s bestfriend Arthur “Boy” Chapel came for a visit, and he fell in love with Gabrielle at first sight. At that time, she and Etienne’s relationship was slowly fading as she caught him cheating. Etienne though, still loved her and made her make her own decisions and move to Paris to fulfill her dreams, btw the name “Coco” was given from Etienne, it was the nickname he used to call her with.
She lived in a small apartment and she made hats there and sold them, until one day someone came knocking on her door, and it was Boy Chapel. They both fell in love and he financed her in opening her first shop in Paris. The business was a great success that they opened two more shops in Deauville and Biarritz. Chanel had always loved wearing men’s clothing, which she borrowed freely from her lovers’ closets, so it’s no surprise that the inspiration for her early designs came from menswear. She even made many of her creations out of traditionally masculine materials, such as wool jersey, which had never before been employed for women’s clothing. Almost at once, her simple, yet elegant designs began to alter the way women of style looked and dressed. Urged by Chanel, women the world over cut their hair and discarded their corsets in favor of loose-fitting sweaters, blazers, simple knit skirts and trench coats.
Chanel was so successful that she was able to pay back Chapel in full, just four years after he set her up in business. Their affair continued, even after he married another woman, and did not end until Chapel died in a car crash on his way to join Chanel for New Year’s Eve in 1919; that was when Chanel invented the “Little Black Dress”, she was so in mourning that she wore black, that’s when the whole world got her trend and starting wearing black at funerals.
Chanel started working again to stop thinking of the guilt she did that she didn’t marry Chapel when he first asked her. In 1924, she released it as Chanel No. 5-the first perfume ever to bear a designer’s name. You know why it’s number 5? Because it’s her lucky number!
Chanel also experimented with many different styles, including Gypsy skirts, over-the-top faux jewelry and glittering evening wear made of crystal and jet beads. People loved how unique her looks looked and that they were different and so comfortable. Until now Chanel is still a leading company in the world of fashion.
Chanel died in 1971, she didn’t marry, as she was still in love with Boy Chapel.
Without Chanel, women wouldn’t have probably worn blazers, pullovers, jeans, trousers, flat hats, coats and wearing black while in mourning. Can you believe it? Even though her life was so hard and difficult, she was still strong and she did what she wanted to do. She was stubborn and confident and she never gave up on her dreams. I think all of you now agree on how inspirational she is, and that without her the world of fashion would have been very different. Furthermore, Gabrielle didn’t know how to draw, and she still managed to be one of the best designers that the world has ever seen.
“Success is often achieved by those who don’t know that failure is inevitable.”- Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel