The first thing I do when a wake up in the morning is to prepare a big mug of freshly brewed coffee and go through some magazines. I believe it is a way to start my day with beauty, elegance, and of course, positive and flourishing news instead of the dark news of a daily newspaper, allowing, therefore, the winedipity, I stubbornly believe in, to occur… ET voila!
I came across an article gathering Chanel biographer, Rhonda Garelick as moderator, the inimitable Diane von Furstenberg and… an empty chair for the ghost of Coco Chanel. Coco Chanel… a name that made me daydream for a while, so I decided to write about this remarkable woman.
Born Gabriel Bonheur Chanel (19th of August 1883 – 10th of January 1971), in Saumur, Chanel was abandoned by her father in an orphanage after the passing of her mother. It was at Aubazine’s convent that she was taught how to sew. Diane von Furstenberg stated, during the interview, that “[Chanel] would never have become who she was if she didn’t go to the nunnery. Her life in Aubazine convent was the most formative and that’s where she learned aesthetics, that’s where she learned discipline, that’s where she learned how to sew.”
Coco was the name given to her during her brief career as a singer before opening her first clothes shop in 1910: some say that the name comes from one of the songs she used to sing “Qui qu’a vu Coco,” wile Chanel said that it was a “shortened version of cocotte, the French word for kept woman,” citing an article I found in The Atlantic.
Describing her life in few words, Chanel professed, “there is no time for cut-and-dried monotony. There is time for work. And time for love. That leaves no other time!” and when asked why didn’t she marry one of her lovers, she replied: “I never wanted to weigh more heavily on a man than a bird.” By her own will, she stayed the Designer, never the Bride; and when asked why she did not marry the Duke of Westminster, she stated: “there have been several Duchesses of Westminster. There is only one Chanel.”
Coco Chanel’s lovers: she had a few prominent lovers that made a vital impression on her career—and sometimes not always for the good. The first was Etienne Balsan, a French polo player who helped her set up her first hat boutique. How convenient, right? Surprisingly, it was through Balsan that she would later meet her true financier and muse: Arthur Edward – “Boy” Capel. Capel, who was also a polo player, put up the funds for Chanel’s first shops. She also became romantically involved with Hans Gunther von Dincklage, a German officer 13 years her junior, during World War II German occupation of France. There were also rumors she had ties to Igor Stravinsky and was close to Pablo Picasso. In 1927, the Duke of Westminster gave Chanel a parcel of land he had purchased in Roquebrune-Cap-Martin on the French Riviera: it was on this site that Chanel built her villa, La Pausa inspired by, Aubazine convent.
Coco Chanel’s legacy for the fashion and luxury world:
- The jersey: “My fortune is built on that old jersey that I’d put on because it was cold in Deauville” – by Coco’s own words. Coco Chanel was the first fashion designer entering the world of Haute Couture and Luxury.
- The jacket: Chanel first created her famous tweed jacket suit in 1954.
- The perfume: The House of Chanel has always had one signature scent and that is No. 5. However, Chanel No. 5 didn’t make a splash until Marilyn Monroe gave the most alluring answer for her first LIFE magazine cover. “What do you wear to bed?” the magazine asked her. “Just a few drops of Chanel No. 5,” she responded. Chanel No.5 made of Coco Chanel the first fashion designer to give her name to fragrance opening a whole new channel of juicy business for luxury and fashion world.
- The little black dress.
- The Chanel handbag.
Quoting Coco Chanel:
“Luxury must be comfortable, otherwise it is not luxury.”
“A woman has the age she deserves.”
“Nature gives you the face you have at 20; it is up to you to merit the face you have at 50.”
About Christian Dior‘s success: “Look at how ridiculous these women are, wearing clothes by a man who doesn’t know women, never had one, and dreams of being one!”
Coco Chanel Milestones
- By the 1920s, the House of Chanel was established at 31, Rue Cambon in Paris, which remains its headquarters.
- In 1922, she launched the fragrance Chanel No. 5, which remains popular to this day.
- In 1925, Chanel launched her signature cardigan jacket, and the following year matched its success with her little black dress. Both items continue to be a staple part of every Chanel collection.
Coco Chanel Posterity Gossip: Karl Lagerfeld has been chief designer of Chanel’s fashion house since 1982, continuously mining the Chanel archive for inspiration. He thinks Coco Chanel made 2 mistakes near the end of her career:
“The first was when she said, ‘Not one man I have spoken to likes a woman in mini skirts’. I think no one dared to tell this 86-year-old lady that miniskirts are great and really sexy,” he says. “Number two was when she decided blue jeans were horrible. This was the fashion of the world at that particular moment—it was the ’60s. No one wanted to be told by an old lady that miniskirts and jeans weren’t chic. The result was that she lost her power and in the end no one cared about what she did.”
No more comments…
Maybe one more Mr. Lagerfeld: what about the offices you still run, 31, Rue Cambon in Paris? Coco Chanel never lost the power and influence till the end. She was never considered as an old lady.
There will be no other Chanel.