10 things you didn’t know about Coco Chanel

Nuns taught her everything she knows

Chanel’s sewing trade was taught to her by none other than the nuns who ran the Aubazine Abbey, an orphanage where she grew up. Both she and her sister Julia were sent there after their mother died.

Chanel would sing before she sewed

at age 18, Chanel was too old to remain at the Abbey and faced the choice of becoming a nun or heading out in to the world. In these early years she would sing at a Moulin-rouge style cabaret frequented by officers.

Coco is not her real name

It was in these formative years that Chanel, born Gabrielle, would acquire her nickname Coco from her male admirers who possibly chose the name based on the two popular songs with which they remembered her performances by, “Ko Ko Ri Ko”, and “Qui qu’a vu Coco”,

She lied about her age

For years Chanel claimed to be born in 1893 instead of 1883 – making her 10 years younger. Before you laugh, it may not have been for the reason you are thinking. It was apparently done to diminish the stigma that her humbler beginnings of poverty, illegitimacy and orphanhood bestowed upon her in 19th century France.

Before clothes, hats were her forte 

After meeting a rich ex-military officer and textile heir Etienne Balsan, Chanel became his mistress and moved in to his chateau in 1908, aged 23. It was their she began her interest in fashion designing and creating hats for rich acquaintances   as a diversion, which eventually led to her commercial venture – a millinery shop in Paris (financed by her lover of nine years a wealthy English Industrialist called Arthur Edward ‘Boy’ Capel – a friend of Balsan, who sadly died in 1919)

Chanel revolutionised fashion for women

If it wasn’t for her looser designs  and relaxed style – achieved through the use of jersey that up until then had been used for men’s underwear – women might still be wearing restricting and uncomfortable corseted clothing. thankfully the generation of women loved her for it and so Maison Chanel was established at 31, Rue Cambon in Paris (which remains its headquarters even today). Becoming a fashion force to be reckoned with in Paris, thanks to her striking bob haircut and tan, the mother of modern style launched her own fragrance in 1922 – which remains popular the world over.

She closed up shop and became a nurse

World War II was a turbulent time for the designer. In 1939 she closed the doors to her shop in Paris and became a war-time nurse but after the war fled controversy surrounding her affair with a German officer and headed to Switzerland. In 1954 she would end this self-imposed exile and return to Paris to take on the men dominating the fashion industry – introducing pea jackets and bell bottoms.

Katherine Hepburn played Chanel in a broadway show

A broadway musical of Chanel’s life opened in 1969 with Hepburn taking on the role of the designer – we’re sure that she had Coco’s renowned unabashed confidence down pat.

We have her to thank for the LBD

In October 1926 Chanel unveils the Little Black Dress. Done in the ‘flapper’ style that marked the design of this era, Vogue anoints the LBD design “the frock that all the world will wear” – how right they were!

She  worked until her death

Having worked furiously to finish her latest couture collection, Chanel dies in 1971 aged 88. Two weeks after her death the ivory tweed suits and white evening dresses are sent to the runway and met with a standing ovation.

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Collette Dinnigan chooses family over career

Collette Dinnigan, the Australian Financial Review reports, will close her boutique stores in Sydney, Melbourne and London and will cease production of her internationally sought after, high-end bridal and evening wear – a move that will affect more than 50 staff members.

The news comes hot on the heels of Dinnigan’s well-received Paris fashion show earlier this month. The designer is known for her twice-yearly shows in the French capital, which she first began in 1995.

The 48-year-old reportedly insists that, unlike other Australian designers who have shut up shop recently, her decision is not based on any financial trouble. In fact the designer told reporters business is still very profitable and without any debt.

So why has Dinnigan decided to close shop?

“I am not closing for financial reasons, at all. It has absolutely nothing to do with it,” the designer insisted.  “This is about finding a way to spend more time with my family,” Dinnigan told reporters.

The working mother of two, who gave birth to her second child only last November said she needed more time with her children – her son Hunter turns one next month and daughter Estella is nine. Dinnigan was apparently crestfallen after returning home from her recent show in Paris to find her baby son hardly recognised her.

“Before Paris I was working seven days a week, I’d see him in the morning and not see him until the next morning again, and that happened for four weeks. Then I went to Paris and he almost didn’t know me when I got back,” Dinnigan said. “ I got back for five days and was on a plane again to Hong Kong. And that was when I went, ‘hang on’. And it has to happen, you have to give it that kind of energy, you can’t just be half pie, or at least I couldn’t.”

But the designer has maintained 100 per cent ownership of the brand she began more than two decades ago. She will continue, “for now”, with the parts of the business that require her to design only and where production and retailing is handled elsewhere.

Her difussion label colette and children’s label, Collette Dinnigan Enfant, will also be manufactured offshore and sold only in department stores such as David Jones and Neiman Marcus or online.  Dinnigan  will also continue her partnership with Specsavers, for which she will launch a prescription sunglasses range early next year, as well as a hosiery line for David Jones

Only this month, Dinnigan featured prominently in a 10-page feature story for a well-known Australian fashion publication celebrating her creative lifestyle and her recent delve into books and publishing. She cited the publication of her book, Obsessive Creative, as a factor in the decision to close down.

“I almost feel the publication of my book was a catalyst,” she said. “The book is a retrospective of my life and it’s made me stop and think about the amazing journey I have had thus far. It crystallised my thinking,” Dinnigan added.

In a statement released this morning Dinnigan said: “I have sacrificed a lot of family time in building and maintaining my business. Now I want balance back in my life with my husband, nine-year-old daughter and baby boy”.

“I have met and worked with some of the world’s most talented people, as well as realising my own creativity while driving a financially viable, profitable business. I truly feel blessed,” she added.

Deeta Colvin, Dinnigan’s publicist, said the deisgner’s decision to close had been “a very difficult one, as she is incredibly passionate about design and her entire business, including all of the people within it, but the hours and travel required to sustain what is necessary to run such a successful international company doesn’t allow for the time she and her family need.”

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