“I don’t do fashion, I AM fashion.”
Indeed, the name Chanel is a synonym of fashion. Besides the “little black dress”, Chanel suit and Chanel N5 perfume, we all owe her for more practical, yet feminine looks, modern-day handbags, quilted leather and much more.
For almost a century, Gabrielle Chanel has been a symbol of feminism, style and luxury. Inspired by simplicity, men’s garments and active lifestyle, Chanel’s designs incorporate a combination of good taste, quality affordable materials and how a modern woman should look. She was the first to use jersey in her clothing, which was mainly used for men’s garments at that time. It freed women of uncomfortable clothes and corsets as it was comfortable, practical and simple. Chanel had a big role in popularizing trousers for women when those were regarded as men’s clothing. In early 20th century, when skin colors darker than “pale” were considered “lower-class”, Chanel got accidental sunburn from her cruise back to Paris and soon tanned skin became a sign of wealth and beauty which has been effective to modern day. By saying she “feels ill” when seeing women dress in red, green and electric blue and that “these colors are impossible”, Chanel turned black color which, at that time, was for only grieving widows and funerals, into women’s favorite.
Chanel fueled her ideas from her own personal attitudes and style. Her own short hair and active lifestyle became iconic and stood behind her ideas. She displayed her emotions and expressions in clothing and stayed true to her belief in comfort and simplicity.
It all started in 1910, when with the financial assistance of one of her admirers, Gabrielle Chanel opened her first shop to sell hats and limited garments. Two years later, Biarritz and Deauville couture shops of Chanel were opened to offer ready-to-wear sports clothes. Her main clientele consisted of celebrities and rich wives of French nobles. Although World War I affected women’s modernization and fashion industry, by 1915 Chanel had already opened Chanel boutique in Paris, on Rue de Cambon, offering larger selection including jersey sweaters, straight-line skirts, skirts and jackets and more. House of Chanel already gained dedicated customers throughout France. Following her success and adding more ready-to-wear dresses and coats, suits and black evening dresses embroidered with lace and tule, in 1921 Chanel debuted her first perfume which was called after her favorite sample bottle – No5. Later in 1926, Vogue magazine named the “little black dress”a fashion must-have because of its suitability for both day and evening and thus it became a classic piece in women’s wear.
While Chanel closed its doors in 1939 when France declared a war on Germany, leaving only jewelry and parfumerie for sale, she could not stand and watch the success of young Christian Dior who was rapidly becoming famous for its more feminine designs with fuller skirts, rounded shoulders and small waists compared to Chanel’s “flat-chested” ones. Despite all the challenges – financial difficulties, hiring of new staff, lack of materials – she debuted a new collection at the age of seventy with a goal to “rescue” women’s fashion. She redesigned her classic looks and made Chanel suit – with slim skirt, collarless jacket and gold buttons. The suit was favored by celebrities like Audrey Hepburn and Grace Kelly, and took off when Jackie Kennedy wore it on the day her husband was killed.
Maison Chanel presented iconic leather handbag with its gold chains, allowing women to free their hands and carry the handbag on the crook of the arm or around the shoulder. She also set the trend for fake jewelry by introducing fake large pearls and glittering gemstones.House of Chanel regained her clientele in France and became famous all over the world.
To explain the huge success of her minimalist designs, in an interview with Harper’s Bazaar, Chanel said: “Simplicity is the keynote of all true elegance”.
Chanel died at the age of 87, in 1971 leaving a huge legacy behind. With her minimalist clothes she revolutionized women’s fashion and created clothes that made a statement of independence, style and luxury. Chanel completely redesigned the way modern women should look: she incorporated pearls, lace and gemstones to simple clothing and turned it into art. Chanel embraced new beginnings and believed that hard work is the key to realization of her dreams.
Chanel legacy continued and prospered when Karl Lagerfeld became the designer of Chanel 10 years later. He added new details to classic looks of Chanel, redesigning her pieces and experimenting with fabrics and styles. Lagerfeld kept signature details of Chanel, never changing interlocking “CC” logo, and helped bring the brand into new level.
Now Chanel has 310 boutiques all over the world. Chanel Boutique is a perfect place with colors of Chanel’s favorite palette of white, black and beige. It is a synonym of true elegance, timeless designs and perfection.