Born in the French Village of Saumur, Val de Loire (also famous for the
wines and the castles) in august 19, 1883, Gabrielle 'Coco' Chanel
(1883-1971) may have very well been the most influential and innovative
fashion designer to date.
As Christian Dior would say: 'With a black pullover and ten rows of pearls she revolutionized fashion'Not only Chanel is known for her No 5 fragrance, but she also left her print
in the fashion industry with her classic and timeless suits, shoes, purses
and jewelry. Her designs helped define women's fashion.
Coco Chanel was one of the kind, way ahead of her time, and way ahead of herself.
She had the magic of giving a new turn to the design industry 80 years
ago. Her recipe was to mix up the ying and the yang, the essence of
masculine and feminine clothes and to create fashion that offer the wearer
a feeling of hidden luxury rather than ostentation. Her taste and sense of
style overlap with today's fashion in the majority of the designersí
She appropriated styles, fabrics and articles of clothing that were worn by
men but also, starting with how she dressed herself, appropriated sports
clothes as part of the expression of fashion. One can see how her style
evolved out of necessity and defiance. Because she couldn't afford the
fashionable clothes of the period, she rejected them and made her own,
using sports jackets and ties that were everyday male attire of the world
where she was climbing her first social ladders.
Gabrielle Chanel spent her childhood in the Aubazine orphanage with the
nuns after her mother died and her father ran off. Then, she went to
a convent in Moulins at 17 years old. When she finally left the convent,
she tried a career as a cabaret singer. She was very charming but her
voice was not in the rhythm of the time.
Then she met Etienne Balsan, a playboy who would finance her move to
Paris and the opening of her first hat business.
In 1912, she met the wealthy socialite, Arthur 'Boy' Capel who helped
her open her first hat shop in 1913. But her real break came in the early
'20s during the Great Depression when Chanel, with the financial help of
Capel, opened her first and now legendary shop at 31 rue Cambon. Then
Arthur ('Boy') helped her to expend her business from hats to clothes and
from Paris to the coastal resorts of Deauville and Biarritz. One of her first
successes was the loose-fitting sweater, which she belted and teamed
with a skirt.
In 1931, Samuel Goldwin hired Chanel for one million dollars to dress his
stars, including Katherine Hepburn, Grace Kelly, Elizabeth Taylor and
Gloria Swanson. This did not last long as many starlets refused her
service. Later that decade, back in her hometown, Chanel designed and
developed an array of costume jewelry inspired by the 'art deco' movement of the '30s.
So naturally, she became associated with the modern movement that
included Picasso and Jean Cocteau. Like these artistic protagonists, she
was determined to break the old formulas and invent a new way
of expressing herself. Jean Cocteau once said that 'she
has, by a kind of miracle, worked in fashion according to rules that would
seem to have value only for artists'.
During the World War II. Chanel shut down her fashion business. In fact, in
1939 after the fall of Paris, Chanel closed all her boutiques and spent the
next fifteen years of her life living in Switzerland exiled, due to her love
affair with a Nazi officer. In 1954, Chanel decided to revamp her '30s
designs. Some say that the popularity of Dior's 'new' corseted look
disgusted Chanel and woke up her dormant inspiration. Once again,
Chanel's designs flourished and she now was embraced by Hollywood
Lagerfeld (who designs Chanel today) points out, 'By the 50s, she had the
benefit of distance, and so could truly distill the Chanel look. Time and
culture had caught up with her.'
In fact, Chanel spent much of the '50s' and '60s' working for various
Hollywood studios, dressing the likes of Audrey Hepburn and Liz Taylor.
During this time her clothing became very popular, especially in the United
By the time Katharine Hepburn played her on Broadway in 1969, Chanel
had achieved first-name recognition and was simply Coco.
Chanel was often photographed holding a cigarette or standing in front of
her famous Art Deco wall of mirrors. Fashion tends to involve a good dose
of smoke and mirrors, so it should come as no surprise that Gabrielle
Chanel's version of her life involved a multitude of lies, inventions, cover-
ups and revisions.
Certainly her life was unpredictable. Even her death in 1971, at the age of
87 in her private quarters at the Ritz Hotel where she often stayed.
She was shrewd, chic and on the cutting edge. The clothes she created changed the way women looked and how they looked at themselves
By INGRID SISCHY
Monday, June 8, 1998
Coco Chanel wasn't just ahead of her time. She was ahead of herself. If one looks at the work of contemporary fashion designers as different from one another as Tom Ford, Helmut Lang, Miuccia Prada, Jil Sander and Donatella Versace, one sees that many of their strategies echo what Chanel once did. The way, 75 years ago, she mixed up the vocabulary of male and female clothes and created fashion that offered the wearer a feeling of hidden luxury rather than ostentation are just two examples of how her taste and sense of style overlap with today's fashion.
Chanel would not have defined herself as a feminist — in fact, she consistently spoke of femininity rather than of feminism — yet her work is unquestionably part of the liberation of women. She threw out a life jacket, as it were, to women not once but twice, during two distinct periods decades apart: the 1920s and the '50s. She not only appropriated styles, fabrics and articles of clothing that were worn by men but also, beginning with how she dressed herself, appropriated sports clothes as part of the language of fashion. One can see how her style evolved out of necessity and defiance. She couldn't afford the fashionable clothes of the period — so she rejected them and made her own, using, say, the sports jackets and ties that were everyday male attire around the racetrack, where she was climbing her first social ladders.
Another page about Coco Chanel: http://transcriptions.english.ucsb.e...rchandise.html
Most welcome, indeed. I am just floored by the pictures of her apartment. You can see she amassed amazing collections of rare books, art and furniture and "objets d'art." What a woman!
In post 33, who is that a bust of? She has a bust of some old statesman. She must have been quite a history buff to have acquired something like that.
Last edited by CTstyle; 03-09-2006 at 05:37 AM.
I'm glad that you like the pics
I have no idea about the bust... only comment to the pic is: View of Coco Chanel's dining room and personal objects.
here is another view
Artworks inside the house of the French fashion designer, Coco Chanel.
Sitting room in the house of the French fashion designer, Coco Chanel.
1926, 1928, 1931
This picture is one of the latest studio portraits of Mme. Coco Chanel, owner of a famous Paris dressmaking house, and well-known figure in Parisian artistic circles.
1931 with actress Ina Claire
Re The decor and objects in her apatrment- you might try to check a copy of "Chanel" by Edmonde Charles Roux; he describes her apartment in stultifying detail...! I'll check it out when (if) I get a minute!!
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