From her inspiration to her most iconic designs, we've got the answers to all your questions.

By Julia Guerra
Aug 17, 2020 @ 3:59 pm
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Haute couture isn’t everyone’s forte, but even if you don’t follow fashion religiously, there are some household names everyone just knows, like Prada, Gucci, Dior, and, of course, Chanel. We likely don’t have to tell you that Coco Chanel is still a style icon: her designs were revolutionary and her signature fragrance is an all-time classic (even Marilyn Monroe was a fan). But, aside from her name, what do you really know about the woman behind the double-C?

Who is Coco Chanel?

Chanel is often attributed to a quote that states a girl "should two things, classy and fabulous." (Whether or not she actually did, however, is another story.) In the her life, she was both. From her most famous designs to her style muse, here are a few need-to-know facts about the woman who blessed us with the little black dress.

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When Was Coco Chanel Born?

Coco Chanel was born on August 19, 1883 in Saumur, France.

What Was Coco Chanel’s Childhood Like?

Unfortunately, the fashion designer’s childhood was far from a fairytale. Chanel was born to Eugénie Jeanne Devolle, a laundress in the charity hospital run by the Sisters of Providence, and Albert Chanel, a peddler. Chanel was only 12 years old when her mother died from a combination of factors, including tuberculosis, poverty, pregnancy, and pneumonia, according to reports from The Telegraph UK. After her mother’s passing, Chanel's father abandoned her and her two sisters, dropping them off at a convent-run orphanage where they were raised by nuns.

What Was Coco Chanel’s First Job?

Like many of the greats, Coco Chanel started from the bottom as a seamstress by day, and a club singer by night in Moulins, a commune in France. 

Where Did Coco Chanel Get Her Name From?

Coco Chanel was born Gabrielle Bonheur Chanel. She acquired the nickname 'Coco' during her brief stint as a cabaret singer. One theory is that Chanel was dubbed 'Coco' after the songs she sang ("Ko Ko Ri Ko" and "Qui qu'a vu Coco dans l'Trocadéro?"), but according to an article published in The Atlantic, Chanel claimed “Coco” was short for “‘cocotte,’ the French word for 'kept woman.’” Either way, it stuck.

When Was Chanel Established?

Chanel opened her very first shop in 1910. The brick and mortar was located on Rue Cambon street in Paris, where the designer kickstarted her namesake brand selling hats.

What Was Coco Chanel’s Most Famous Design? 

You can thank Coco Chanel for the little black dress hanging in your closet, even if the tag doesn’t don the label’s signature double C. The fashion icon introduced the now classic wardrobe staple early on in the 1920s, and it proved to be as revolutionary as the times.

Chanel is also known for its two-piece suits. The collarless tweed jacket and well-fitted skirt set gives women a desirable, tailored fit but doesn’t feel stiff on.

Where Did Coco Chanel’s Style Inspiration Come From?

Coco Chanel grew up in a time when women were expected to wear confining pieces, but she had another vision. Chanel’s goal was to design classy garments that were as fashionable as they were comfortable, drawing inspiration from menswear and practical necessity.

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When Did Chanel Create the Chanel No. 5 Perfume?

In 1921, Chanel released the her first perfume with the help of perfumer Ernest Beaux. The name came from the fact that it was the fifth sample out of 10 created.

What Is Coco Chanel's Connection to Lions?

Lions are a symbol that is associated with the brand and included in collections. This is because Coco Chanel was inspired by the city of Venice, known as the city of the Lion, and was also a Leo.

Who Was Coco Chanel Married To?

Coco Chanel never married, but she did have suitors, and they played a significant role in her success. She was first linked to French textile heir and racehorse owner Etienne Balsan, who helped Chanel become a milliner (someone who sells hats) as her first real solo endeavor. However, it was Arthur 'Boy' Capel, a wealthy polo player, who helped Chanel set up shop on Rue Cambon, and eventually a boutique in Deauville. Capel is believed to be Chanel’s one true love, not to mention quite the significant muse.

After Capel died in a car accident in 1919, Chanel viewed men as a means to an end. She chose lovers based on their status and wealth in order to sustain her independence.

What Made Coco Chanel So Influential?

Coco Chanel was a number of things — wealthy, successful, controversial — but what made her influential was her rebellious yet highly fashionable designs. Chanel approached fashion in a way that designers weren’t at the time. She made clothes trendy, beautiful, and comfortable. She took mournful black and made it chic, she took menswear and applied it to womenswear. She defied limitations and encouraged women to do the same — in fashion, and otherwise.

When Did Coco Chanel Die?

Coco Chanel died of a heart attack on January 10, 1971 in the Hotel Ritz in Paris. She was 87 years old.