top of page

Born Gabrielle Bonheur Chanel, legendary French designer, fashion brand founder and businesswoman Coco Chanel was born in a poorhouse in Saumur on August 19, 1883. Following her mother’s death, young Gabrielle was sent to a convent at age eleven. It was at the Congregation of the Sacred Heart of Mary that she learned to sew. Later in life, her early struggle and hardships would be replaced with largely untrue tales in an effort to glamorize her life story.


The name “Coco” was acquired when, while earning a living as a seamstress, Chanel sang cabaret and sought a career on the stage. When her singing voice was found to be unequal to her considerable stage charm, Chanel abandoned the stage. By twenty-three, she had become the courtesan to a couple of rich, influential men, the second of whom, Arthur Edward Capel, financed her first shops.


Her first establishment, opened in 1913 in Deauville, sold hats, jackets and a popular sailor blouse. A second location, opened in Biarritz in 1915, was a runaway success, and by 1919, Chanel was a registered couterière and had established her landmark Paris store. Defying the corseted silhouette of the time, the look advanced by Coco Chanel was one of “youthful ease, liberated physicality and unencumbered sportive confidence”.


As with Ralph Lauren some decades later, she borrowed freely from the accoutrement of the sailing and sportsman’s sets. Eventually a world brand, Chanel would break into perfumes, jewelry and handbags, becoming a global influence on global luxury style. 

Coco Chanel

Frame Color
    bottom of page