Everyone who is anyone has heard of Chanel. It’s probably one of the most elite and elegant brands in the fashion industry. What girl doesn’t dream of owning a little black dress from Chanel? However, what most people don’t know is that it’s founder, Coco Chanel, was the first women to ever enter the fashion industry. That’s right. You would think that since the world of fashion would be ruled mostly by women. Since after all, women are the ones who know more about fashion then men. I mean lets me honest, men don’t really know about what fits best a women’s body. However, at the time when Chanel was just a young woman, the fashion industry was ruled by men. It’s no surprise that a young woman from France none the less entered this world ruled by men and made a lasting impression.
If you’re wondering how it all started, don’t worry. We did some research and here’s how one little french girl forever changed the world of fashion industry.
Coco Chanel, born Gabrielle Bonheur Chanel, was born in 1883 in France. Her father was a street vendor who travelled a lot and her mother was a laundrywoman in the charity hospital run by the Sisters of Providence. When she was 12, her mother died of tuberculosis. Her father who didn’t have the means to look after her or her two sisters send them away to the convent of Aubazine which ran an orphanage. It’s while she was there that she learned to sew.
Eventually, her talents got her a job as a seamstress a few years later. At nights, she sang in a cabaret to earn extra money and acquired the nickname Coco. Her nickname came from one of the songs she sang “Who Has Seen Coco?”. It’s at the cabaret that she first met Étienne Balsan, textile heir. At 23, she became his mistress and lived with him at his château Royalieu. While there, she started designing hats as a way of passing time. Little did she know that this would mark the beginning of her fashion career.
The Start of a Fashion Empire
While living with Balsan, she met his friend Arthur Edward “Boy” Capel. The two instantly hit it off and began an affair. Capel installed Chanel in an appartement in Paris and financed her first shops where she was selling her hats. The store was named Chanel Modes and since the location was already selling clothes, she focussed on her hats. Her business significantly bloomed when a theatre actress was spotted wearing one of her hats during a play. That same actress also modeled one of Chanel’s hats in photograph featured in a fashion magazine.
In 1913, just 3 years after her first shop was opened, Chanel opened another boutique in Deauville. There, she introduced casual deluxe clothing. The fabrics that she used where those usually used for men’s underwear, jersey and tricot. Her boutique being located in the center of a fashionable street, she made a name for herself. She not only sold hats anymore, but also jackets, sweaters and the famous sailor blouse. After the success of her boutique, she opened another establishment where she made such a huge success that she was able to reimburse Arthur.
Matters of the Heart
On a more personal side however, her relationship with Capel was suffering. While Chanel hoped that the two would marry, Capel was never faithful to her. Their affair lasted 9 years, even after Capel married an English aristocrat. Chanel saw her life turned upside down when Capel died in a car accident in 1919.
“His death was a terrible blow to me. In losing Capel, I lost everything. What followed was not a life of happiness, I have to say.”
She grieved Capel for a very longtime. He had not only played a crucial role in her career as she started a fashion industry, but he would be what she would always call “the love of her life”.
Chanel: The Brand
Through connections and hard work, Chanel was able to make her designs known world-wide. While other brands that were run by men were focussing on creating designs of what they thought women should wear, Chanel went a completely different location. In fact, she would always be known as the designer who rid women of corsets and other uncomfortable garments. She liberated women of fashion restraints that had been put in place by men. Chanel believed that there was no reason why women couldn’t look fashionable while wearing comfortable clothing. While she definitely made a statement in the early days where she revealed her designs, eventually, people came around to it.
Chanel is now recognized as being the hero of most women since she was not only the first woman to enter the fashion industry that had been long run by men, but also as the person who introduced women to a world of comfortable liberated fashion wear. She took a stand in what she believed in and made a name for herself. If that doesn’t scream #BossGoals, not sure what does.