To celebrate fashion icon Coco Chanel we take a look at some lesser known facts about the legendary designer.
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 there 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.
Read more: These timeless beauty icons from the house of Chanel are all you need for an effortless beauty look.