Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Coco Chanel

Born: August 19, 1993, Saumur, France

Died: January 10, 1971, (Aged 87) Paris, France

Early Years
Gabrielle "Coco" Bonheur Chanel was born second daughter to Jeanne Devolle and Albert Chanel. Her parents married in 1883. She had five siblings, Julie, Antoinette, Alphonse, Lucien and Augustin. When Coco was 12 years old, her mother died of tuberculosis, soon after Coco's father leaving to take care of the other children. Young Coco Chanel spent 7 years in the orphanage of the Catholic Monastery of Aubazine. When she turned eighteen, she left the orphanage and became a local tailor.

While working at a tailoring shop she met and soon began an affair with the French playboy and millionaire Étienne Balsan
who lavished her with the beauties of "the rich life", diamonds, dresses and pearls. While living with Balsan, Chanel began designing hats as a hobby, which soon became a deeper interest of hers. After opening her eyes, as she would say, Coco left Balsan and took over his apartment in Paris, France. 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.Later in life, she told an elaborate false history for her humble beginnings. Chanel would steadfastly claim that when her mother died, her father sailed for America and she was sent to live with two cold-hearted spinster aunts. She even claimed to have been born in 1893 as opposed to 1883, and that her mother had died when Coco was six instead of twelve.

The Chanel Empire
Chanel always kept the clothing she designed simple and comfortable and revealing. She took what were considered poor fabrics like jersey and upgraded them. 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.

Later Years
In 1939, at the beginning of World War II, the designer closed her shops. She believed that it was not a time for fashion. She took up residence in the Hôtel Ritz Paris and for more than 30 years, Chanel made this hotel her home, even during the Nazi occupation of Paris.

Chanel died in Paris on January 10, 1971, 87 years old, in her private suite at the Hôtel Ritz, and she was buried in Lausanne, Switzerland. Her tombstone is carved with stone lion heads representing her birth sign, Leo.


No comments: