The Romantic Origins of Coco Chanel

CHANEL is a privately owned haute couture fashion house with a global following for its couture and luxury ready-to-wear lines, accessories, fragrances, and makeup. Gabrielle ‘Coco’ Chanel began her career in 1909 selling hats from her lover’s apartment in Paris. Financed by the men in her life, Chanel opened shops in fashionable French neighborhoods, began to sell dresses and sportswear, and in 1915 opened her first couture house, giving birth to a legend. CHANEL doesn’t just sell merchandise; it sells a persona, a lifestyle and an ideology. One that continues to align itself with the spirit of its creator.

Tied to its Heritage

Chanel was born into poverty and raised in an orphanage. Determined to leave this life behind, she created a new persona for herself. “The transformation was successful; Gabrielle created for herself a glamorous alter ego, “Coco”-an athletic, sexually independent playgirl noted for her cultivation, famous friends and royal lovers” (Chanel).

Relationships with prominent men enabled her to socialize with wealthy, elite clients. Her personality and work enabled her to gain acceptance, an unprecedented fete for a dressmaker. Chanel was her own advocate and marketing genius. She wore the designs she created and was strategically photographed in them. Chanel became a celebrity; women wanted not only to dress like her but to be like her.

The company continues to capitalize on her appeal and legendary status. Packaging for the Chanel No. 5 perfume maintains most of its original design. And many patterns, fabrics, and design concepts remain a part of the collections.

Continued Concepts

Lagerfeld was appointed artistic director in 1983 and carries on Chanel’s ideology. He is a worldwide celebrity like Chanel was and has been called “the most famous fashion designer in the world” (Style.com). Chanel was modern in her approach but while innovative in the field, she was still successful in creating timeless, classic designs. Willing to take chances and invite the spirit of the day into an established line of classics, Lagerfeld evokes the adventurous side of Chanel while respecting her genius. For the Fall 2010 Ready to Wear show, Lagerfeld once again successfully combined old and new. Style.com called his creations an “in-every-way extravagant play on Coco in cold weather”. CHANEL.com describes Lagerfeld: “At CHANEL he has changed nothing and everything, interpreting CHANEL in his own way with elegance and wit.”

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