COCO CHANEL: The female “roots” of fashion

By Konstantina Kloukiniota and Katseri Evangelia (A Class)


Gabrielle Bonheur Chanel (19 August 1883 – 10 January 1971)was a French fashion designer and founder of the Chanel brand. Chanel was known for her lifelong determination, ambition, and energy which she applied to her professional and social life. She was a successful businesswoman who inspired the worldwide fashion, both male and female.


She was born by an unmarried mother, Eugénie Jeanne Devolle who was a laundrywoman. When Gabrielle was 12, her mother died of bronchitis at the age of 31. And she was sent by her father to the Correze, in central France.

Having learned the art of sewing, Chanel was able to find employment as a seamstress. When not working there, she sang in a cabaret. Chanel made her stage debut singing at a cafe-concert  in a Moulins pavilion, «La Rotonde». It was at this time that Gabrielle acquired the name «Coco», possibly based on two popular songs with which she became identified, «Ko Ko Ri Ko», and «Qui qu’a vu Coco», or it was an allusion to the French word for kept woman, cocotte.


Around the age of 20, Chanel became involved with Etienne Balsan who offered to help her start a millinery business in Paris. At the begging she was selling hats, then she started making clothes. Her first taste of clothing success came from a dress she wore on a chilly day. In response to the many people who asked about where she got the dress, she offered to make one for them. In 1920s Coco launched her first perfume, chanel No5. Another 1920s revolutionary design was Chanel’s little black dress. She took a color and showed just how chic it could be for eveningwear.


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The international economic depression of the 1930s had a negative impact on her company, but it was the outbreak of World War II that led Chanel to close her business. She fired her workers and shut down her shops.  Chanel got involved with a German military officer. After the war ended, Chanel was interrogated by her relationship with von Dincklage, but she was not charged as a collaborator. Then she left France and went at Switzerland.


Coco Chanel died on January 10, 1971, at her apartment in the Hotel Ritz. She never married, having once said “I never wanted to weigh more heavily on a man than a bird.” Hundreds crowded together at the Church of the Madeleine so as to say goodbye to this legend. A little more than a decade after her death, designer Karl Lagerfeld was in charge of her company to continue the Chanel legacy. Today her company continues to develop and is believed to generate hundreds of millions in sales each year.


if you want to be original, be ready to be copied.”