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The rise of Chanel


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Gabrielle Chanel was born in the French town of Saumur during the summer of 1883, into humble beginnings.

Chanel’s recounts of her childhood are largely fabricated and hide her tragic upbringing. Abandoned by her father following her mother's death, Chanel spent six years in an orphanage, where she developed her skills in sewing. 

It wasn’t until 1910, at the age of 27, that Chanel opened her first shop, under the guise of Chanel Modes. However, it was not the Chanel we know of today; it was a millinery, producing hats for the Parisian elite.

Salvador Dali and Coco Chanel, 1938.

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By 1913, she had opened her second store and introduced a sportswear collection. Many deemed the collection ‘revolutionary’ and have credited it as ‘changing women’s relationships with their bodies and their way of life’. 

French women were captivated by Chanel's work and imitated it far and wide.

By 1915, she had opened her first couture house.

Only 8 years after opening her first store on Rue Cambon, Chanel acquired the premises of 31 Rue Cambon, which remains to be her flagship store.

She is believed to have invented the concept of a modern boutique here, by displaying and arranging garments in her shop windows. Rue Cambon is the new home for Chanel boutiques and by 1935, she owned 5 stores on the street.

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No. 31 was home to another famous Chanel number. That's right, No. 5.

The fragrance, so called No. 5 because it was the fifth scent presented to her, was launched in 1921, but was actually created by elite perfumer Ernest Beaux.

Chanel No. 5 is still highly regarded as ‘the ultimate symbol of femininity' though Chanel continued to release multiple staple fragrances throughout the decade.

During 1924, following a trip to Scotland, Chanel discovered tweed. The fabric inspired her now iconic women's suits.

It seemed a tough act to follow, however, two years later Chanel went on to launch her unrivaled statement piece: the little black dress. American Vogue described the piece as ‘the frock that all the world will wear.’ 

With global domination looming, film producer Samuel Goldwyn invited the seamstress to create outfits for the leading ladies in Hollywood, further propelling her reputation.

However, as war broke out in 1945, only one of her Rue Cambon stores remained open; the iconic No. 31. Perfumes and accessories were in high demand from American soldiers wishing to send something back to their sweethearts. Her reputation did, however, take a hit due to her affiliation with Nazi officials, with some even believing her to have been a Nazi agent.

It wasn't until 1954 that Chanel fully returned to fashion, inspiring a second fashion revolution. Iconic staples of the period include the 2.55 bag and the only masculine fragrance to be made in Chanel’s life time - Pour Monsieur.

Business boomed throughout the sixties and welcomed the launch of the fragrance No.19. 

Coco Chanel passed away on January 10th 1971, aged 87, leaving behind a legacy of fashion firsts and iconic looks. 

Celebrated in art galleries and wardrobes alike, Coco Chanel changed the face of modern fashion reigning as the Queen of Couture from the first little black dress, to Gabrielle (their first fragrance in 15 years, due to be released this Autumn).

Today, the name Chanel is synonymous with elegance, femininity and luxury, and her legacy lives on. 

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