I have mentioned Chanel numerous times but never gave her biography- until now.
Gabrielle "Coco" Chanel (August 19, 1883 – January 10, 1971) as born the second daughter of traveling salesman Albert Chanel and Jeanne Devolle in the small city of Saumur, Maine-et-Loire, France. In 1895, when she was 12 years old, Chanel's mother died of tuberculosis and her father left the family a short time later because he needed to work to raise his children. Because of his work, the young Chanel spent seven years in the orphanage where she learned the trade of a seamstress. When Coco turned eighteen, she left the orphanage, and took up work for a local tailor.
In 1913, she opened up her very first shop which sold a range of fashionable raincoats and jackets. Situated in the heart of Paris, France it wasn't long before the shop went out of business and Chanel was asked to surrender her properties. This did not discourage Chanel; it only made her more determined. During the pre-war era, Chanel met up with an estranged and former best friend of Étienne Balsan, Arthur "Boy" Capel, whom she soon fell in love with. With his assistance, Chanel was able to acquire the property and financial backing to open her second millinery shop in Brittany, France. Her hats were worn by celebrated French actresses, which helped to establish her reputation. In 1913, Chanel introduced women’s sportswear.
All her clothes were emblazoned with the famous Chanel symbol, the interlocking "C"s. This, however, was not her own design. The symbol was given to her by the owner of the Chateau de Cremat (a Chateau on the outskirts of Nice in the south of France). Chanel always kept the clothing she designed simple and comfortable and revealing. She was instrumental in helping to design the image of the 1920s flapper, a "new breed" of young women who wore short skirts, bobbed their hair, listened to jazz music, and flaunted their disdain for what was then considered acceptable behavior. The flappers were seen as brash for wearing excessive makeup, drinking, smoking, driving automobiles, and showing a lot of skin.
In 1939, at the beginning of World War II, the designer closed her shops. She believed that it was not a time for fashion. 1954, was the year she returned to the fashion world. Her new collection did not have much success with the Parisians because of her relationship with a Nazi spy during the war; however, it was much applauded by the Americans, who were to become her most popular buyers.
Long after her death, the Chanel empire still carries on. The German designer Karl Lagerfeld has been, since 1983, the art director of Chanel, both for the haute couture and prêt-à-porter (ready-to-wear).