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Gabrielle Bonheur Chanel (August 19, 1883 - January 10, 1971) was a French fashion designer and perfume creator.
Popularly known as Coco Chanel or Mademoiselle by her inner circle, she was born Gabrielle Bonheur Chanel in the small city of Saumur, France.
Shortly after Coco's father abandoned her and her brothers and sisters. The children were then left in the care of relatives. In 1909 Coco Chanel opened her first shop in Paris selling ladies hats and within a year moved to the fashionable Rue Cambon. She would become one of the most influential figures in haute couture in the 20th century, helping to create what is considered modern Fashion today. The House of Chanel in Paris, under Karl Lagerfeld, remains one of the top design houses today.
Two of her most famous creations the Chanel No. 5 perfume, launched in 1923 and still a classic fragrance today, and the Chanel suit , actually a whole look for women: an elegant outfit with boxy lines, made of pastel pink wool with black trim and gold buttons, worn with large costume-pearl necklaces. She also invented the Little Black Dress. Although other little black dresses existed before Coco Chanel, hers is the one by which they are defined. In 1923, Chanel told Harper's Bazaar that “simplicity is the keynote of all true elegance.”
The nickname Coco was evidently acquired at La Rotonde, a cafe frequented by members of a French cavalry regiment and numerous of the great artists who flocked to Paris' Montparnasse section at the turn of the 20th century. She was set up in business by a lover, Etienne Balsan , a textile heir, and her affairs with the artist Paul Iribe , the 2nd Duke of Westminster, Grand Duke Dmitri of Russia, and British sportsman Boy Capel all had a considerable influence on the stylistic evolution of her often male-inspired fashions. The only affair that didn't seem to spur her creativity was one she had with a Nazi officer during World War II.
For more than thirty years, Gabrielle Chanel made the Hôtel Ritz Paris her home. However, she spent the latter years of her life alone in Lausanne, Switzerland and is buried there, her tomb surrounded by five stone lions.
Last updated: 02-09-2005 23:28:57
Last updated: 05-03-2005 09:00:33