Gabrielle Bonheur Chanel was born in the town of Saumur, France, in 1883. Her family was very poor. Her middle name - Bonheur - means 'happiness.' 'Coco' was her nickname. It means 'little pet.'
When Coco was twelve years old, her mother died from tuberculosis. As her father was obliged to work and was unable to look after his children at home, Coco had to spend the next six years living in an orphanage. During this time, she learnt how to sew and to make clothes. When she left the orphanage, at the age of eighteen, her first job was working for a tailor.
Very soon, she began to design hats. In 1912, she opened her own hat shop in Paris.
Her creations became very popular with famous French actresses. Below is a photo of one of her hat designs, in 1912.
By the 1920s, Coco Chanel had become famous internationally as a fashion designer.
In 1923, she launched her own perfume called 'No. 5.' She called it No. 5 because 'five' was her lucky number. She was superstitious and all her new fashion collections had to be first revealed to the public on the fifth day of the month!
Later, she launched another perfume called 'No. 19' - because her birthday was on the 19th of August.
Coco Chanel's typical accessories include:- gold chains, pearl necklaces, two-tone shoes and quilted handbags.
She is also famous for designing 'the little black dress'
(la petite robe noire) and 'the Chanel suit'. The Chanel suit is a knee-length skirt with fitted jacket, made in black woollen fabric with gold buttons.
The Chanel label is associated with luxury and great style.
Coco lived in private rooms at the Ritz Hotel, Paris for over thirty years! She died there on 10 January 1971, at the age of 87 years. Her rooms at the Ritz are called 'Suite Coco Chanel.' She was laid to rest in Lausanne, Switzerland.
Nowadays, the Chanel company - La Maison Chanel - has over two hundred boutiques worldwide, selling clothes, watches, accessories, perfumes and beauty products, sunglasses and jewellery.
The company's logo is 'two letter Cs back to back', representing the initials of Coco Chanel.
The Chanel headquarters are in Paris, This building is called La Maison Mère (literally, 'the mother house') and it is found in La Place Vendôme.
The story of Coco Chanel is quite wonderful because it proves that, with determination, everyone can achieve great things. She was born into a very poor family and grew up in an orphanage but just look at what she achieved!
Some interesting facts: Did you know that on Coco Chanel's birth certificate, the registrar wrote her surname incorrectly? By mistake, it was written Chasnel.
Also - it was Coco Chanel who made the 'sun tan' fashionable. It had always been considered preferable to be pale, but she launched a new 'bronzed look' through sunbathing. Nowadays, we know that sunbathing can be dangerous.
Coco Chanel said some interesting things. Here are a few quotations:
1. La mode se démode, le style jamais. Fashion goes out of fashion, style never does.
2. Pour être irremplaçable, il faut être différent. To be irreplaceable, you need to be different.
3. Une femme sans parfum est une femme sans avenir. A woman without perfume is a woman without a future.
4. Les seuls beaux yeux sont ceux qui vous regardent avec tendresse. The only beautiful eyes are the ones that look at you with tenderness.
What do you think of these sayings?
Je suis d'accord. (I agree)
Je ne suis pas d'accord. (I do not agree.)
Merci, Mademoiselle Coco!
Thank you, Coco Chanel, for showing us that we can all achieve great things through hard work and determination. You are a great inspiration!
Merci mille fois!