15 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Coco Chanel
Coco Chanel is one of the most powerful women in the world of fashion. Gabrielle Bonheur Chanel was born in 1883 in Saumur, Maine-et-Loire, France. Later, she will become “The fascinating paradox”, “the couturier who takes no account of fashion, who pursues her own faultlessly elegant line in the quiet confidence that fashion will come back to her – and sure enough it does” (Vogue, 1957)
Coco Chanel managed to create her own empire in a world ruled by men. She was their equal and sometimes she was even better than them.
The non-conformist designer will always be one of the most influential figures in the fashion industry simply because she established the basic modern woman’s look.
Here are 15 things you didn’t know about Coco Chanel!
1. She was a cabaret singer at first
The only money she earned from singing singing at a café-concert was what she managed to accumulate when the plate was passed among the audience in appreciation of her performance.
2. Coco who?
Gabrielle Chanel acquired the name “Coco” while she was singing when she she became identified with two popular songs ” Ko Ko Ri Ko” and “Qui qu’a vu Coco”.
Later, she would tell everyone that Coco is the nickname given to her by her father.
3. She introduced pants for women
Coco Chanel outraged the fashion world when she wore pants in Venice, to make travelling by gondola easier. Coco Chanel decided that there was no comfortable way to ride a horse while wearing a long skirt.
4. She launched the first designer scent
Coco Chanel gave us the most famous perfume, Chanel No 5. The perfume was launched in 1921 and had its place in history secured when Marilyn Monroe was asked what she wore to bed and she answered “Just a few drops of Chanel No 5″
Chanel No 5 was created because Coco desired “A woman’s perfume with a woman’s scent.”
5 She grew up at an orphanage
When Chanel was 12 her mother died of bronchitis. Her father sent her two brothers to work at a farm and he left the three sisters to the convent of Aubazine, which ran an orphanage.
In an interview, Karl Lagerfeld said that he had “a lot of admiration for the child because she had no education, incredibly poor parents, an absent father, nothing”. He also stated that “her starting point was zero so it is fantastic what she was able to do”.
6. She stepped into the world of fashion by designing hats
Coco Chanel learned the art of sewing at the orphanage. She became a licensed milliner in 1910 and opened a boutique at 21 rue Cambon, Paris, named Chanel Modes.
Her first clients were simple women but the important figures soon followed.
7. She lived in a hotel for more than 30 years
In her twilight years, Coco Chanel lived a solitary life, residing at the Hotel Ritz in Paris, where she passed away in 1971, at the age of 87.
During the day she stayed at her apartment, underneath her atelier but she spent the nights at the Ritz. Every day, after she left the hotel, the porter would call an employee who would spray the staircase before her arrival.
8. Coco Chanel invented the women’s suit
Chanel revolutionized women’s fashion when she freed them from the “dresses in which one can’t move”. Coco Chanel also liberated women from the dresses who weren’t “made for action”.
The famous Chanel suit has a military-inspired jacket, pad pockets and buttons that look like jewelry.
9. She had a bitter personality
Coco Chanel never missed an opportunity to criticize her contemporaries: she accused Christian Dior of dressing women like armchairs and said that she admired Balenciaga’s designs but questioned his ability to cut.
In 1954, the year of her return, she was interviewed by Vogue. In her interview, she told them that she had “always been copied by others”.
10. The lion
Ever wondered why the lion is so present in Chanel’s jewelry? Gabrielle Chanel was born under the Leo star sign, and this will be reflected in her work. All her life she kept a lion statue next to her cigarettes and scissors. Also, the lion can be seen engraved on the bottoms of her tweed suits.
“I’m a Leo and like him I show my claws to protect myself “, she said “But believe me I suffer more by clawing than being clawed.”
11. Black was her favorite color
Although white, beige, gold and red are emblematic for Chanel, black was her favorite color. For Coco Chanel, black revealed a woman’s radiance and accentuated the essential. This color also recalls the nun’s veils at the orphanage.
12. The Nazi collaboration
Declassified documents of the French Secret Services revealed that Coco Chanel was registered as a member of Abwher (an espionage German group).
Coco Chanel spent most of the war staying at the Hotel Ritz in Paris, sharing close quarters with Nazi general officers, agents, and spies, including Hermann Goering and Joseph Goebbels.
13. Boy Capel
Boy Capel was an English polo player but he is best known as Gabrielle Chanel’s lover. The two met in 1909, while she was the mistress of his friend, Étienne Balsan.
Capel introduced the young girl to literature and was the one who financed Coco Chanel’s first shops. His style was also an inspiration for Chanel that contributed to the creation of the Chanel Look.
Boy Capel died in a car accident in 1919. This was the first and last time Coco Chanel was seen to cry. “Either I die as well or I finish what we started together”, she said. And she did not give up.
14. Fame in America
For her return, after the Second World War, Coco Chanel chose her lucky number. On the 5th of February 1954, Chanel watched her models on the runway. The French press ridiculed her designs and age.
However, Coco Chanel was to find fame in America. Life, the most popular and read magazine in America wrote “At 71 years old, Gabrielle Chanel brings more than a style, a revolution!”
15. The funeral
At her funeral, the first seats were occupied by her models and her coffin was covered with white flowers (camellias, gardenias, orchids, azaleas and red roses).
Coco Chanel is buried in Lausanne, Switzerland. Her headstone was designed by the designer herself and features the emblematic lion. “Without stone above me, I would like to leave if I had the wish to go to Heaven and dress the angels”, she said.
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This was our list of 15 things you didn’t know about Coco Chanel! There’s no doubt that she still is one of the most influential women in the fashion industry. Ladies, how many of these facts you already knew? Do you have some more to add? Share your thoughts in the comment section.
If you want even more facts, we made this Alux Original Video that dives deep into her life. Enjoy!
Also, make sure to click here to find out about the oldest fashion houses out there and everything about The House of Chanel!