Regardless of if you are into the world of fashion, you should know about Coco Chanel and her impact on an industry that is one of the most powerful in the world. She was not only a style icon but also one of the first incredibly successful businesswomen of the 20th Century. Learning about her personality, talents and history not only teaches us about the fashion industry but about what it takes to be successful as a woman in a time when most women weren't allowed to be successful in business.
Gabrielle "Coco" Chanel's youth was particularly unglamorous, sewing the seeds for what she would soon become. Her mother died when she was young, her father was incredibly poor, so poor that young Coco was put into an orphanage. Nuns raised her, their relatively rigid black and white style having an effect on the fashion Chanel would produce later in her career.
'Coco' was in fact a nickname of Gabrielle Chanel, given to her during her time as a singer in France in her teenage years and early 20's. It was evidently short for Cocotte, which was the French word for "kept woman."
At the age of 20, a man offered to help Chanel start a millinery business. She accepted but soon left him to take up with one of his wealthier friends, who could help her expand. This also showed off Coco Chanel's keen yet ruthless business savvy.
Her first shop was opened in Paris in 1910, where she began selling hats. on one chilly day she fashioned a dress out of an old jersey. Everyone asked her where she had gotten the dress and she promised to make one for them. That's where the fashion career began.
Chanel was a booming success. She created "the little black dress," turning an item meant for mourning into a sexy cocktail outfit. It is still one of the most popular items in women's fashion today. She created Chanel No.5, one of the best-selling perfumes in the world. She borrowed elements from men's wear and incorporated it into women's clothing, emphasizing comfort over restriction in all of her clothes.
Coco Chanel had many different relationships with men over the course of her life. She ran briefly with painter Pablo Picasso and had a long love affair with composer Igor Stravinsky as well as the Duke of Westminster. However, her image suffered greatly in the court of public opinion when she carried on with a Nazi during the German occupation of France throughout World War II.