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Coco Chanel

Born in Saumur on 19 August 1883, Gabrielle Chanel is one of the most emblematic figures of haute couture. A symbol of elegance, she was able to revolutionize women's fashion and become one of the most in fashion seamstresses of her time.

Origins and success

Born into a very modest family, the young Gabrielle Chanel grew up in an orphanage where she learned to sew. In 1909, having become a seamstress at Moulins, she began performing in a cabaret. In reference to the song she used to perform, the officers who listened to her began to call her "Coco", a name that would mark her forever.

Escaping from her condition as a simple seamstress, Gabrielle discovered life in a castle and took her first steps in high society thanks to her friend Etienne Balsan. Amongst his friends, she met a certain Arthur "Boy" Capel, whom she did not hesitate to follow to Paris. There, a quick and important success awaits her: her very sober avant-garde creations with masculine accents catch the eye and Coco Chanel gives herself the mission to liberate the woman's body.

In 1910, she opened her first boutique of haute couture and ready-to-wear. Then followed those in Deauville and Biarritz, and finally the most famous of them all, the one on rue Cambon in Paris. At the same time, she was the first couturier to start creating perfumes, which have since become real references.

Coco Chanel's obscure activities during the Second World War and her assumed anti-Semitism, however, caused her to lose her lustre... After the liberation, she moved to Switzerland. Collapsed, she watches from afar the triumph of Christian Dior's "New-Look", another great couturier, who, according to her, harms her fight for the liberation of women's bodies.

The Glorious Return

Faced with her rival's balconnets and puffy shapes, Chanel tries to impose her androgynous style again  with his suits and his sober dresses; it will be crowned with success. Her creations are then worn by the greatest actresses of the moment like Romy Schneider or Jeanne Moreau but also by influential women like Jackie Kennedy. Marylin Monroe's statement that she only wore "a few drops of Chanel N°5" at night was part of the international consecration of the designer, who won an "Oscar de la Mode" in 1957. Having become a living icon among fashion designers, she died on January 10, 1971 in her famous suite at the Ritz Hotel, Place Vendôme.

Over the years, Coco Chanel was able to create one of the greatest French fashion houses thanks to her audacity, her innovation and some iconic and unforgettable pieces such as the men's suit, the little black dress, the tweed suit, the 2.55 (the famous little quilted bag created in February 1955), the two-coloured ballerinas and, of course, the Chanel N°5.

Want to find out more? The whole universe of the House of Chanel.

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