Saumur, 1883. It was on August 19th Jeanne DeVolle gave birth, in a hospice, to Gabrielle Bonheur Chanel whom, one day, the world would know by the eponymous name of Coco Chanel. Though current day we know Chanel as an iconic luxury name, the designer's origins stemmed from a melancholy and grief-stricken childhood. She experienced the premature death of her mother, the abandonment by her father Henri-Albert Chasnel, a street vendor by profession, and she experienced years in custody of the Sisters of the Sacred Heart, in Aubazine. There she was surrounded by women dressed only in austere clothes, strictly white and black, and the rigorous architecture of the abbey, yet ironically, it is precisely here that Gabrielle began to become Chanel: the antithesis of the opposing colors and the severity of the lines that eventually became the distinctive feature of her designs.
In 1916 Rodier, a French textile industrialist, exclusively gave Gabrielle Chanel jersey, a fabric that proved to be the best interpreter of Chanel creations given the softness on the body and her innate ability to free the woman's physical form. The triptych skirt, pullover and cardigan thus became the first distinctive model of Chanel fashion, made especially in neutrals such as gray, beige and dark blue as well as the famous combination of black and white. But it was in 1920 that her signature dedication to this aesthetic took place. In that year, Chanel opened her first boutique in Paris at 31 Rue de Cambon. This being the pivotal moment for her career success, saw added and consistent exponential growth due to her ambition which was defined by her relentless desire for more. From this same unceasing desire to create more, the birth of her first and famous perfume, Chanel No.5, which can only be described as a timeless fragrance that, even today, is considered one of the best ever conceived. Subsequently, other fragrances were created, such as the No.22, the Gardenia, inspired by the the designers favorite flower and the No.19.
After establishing a substantial and unwavering vision with her garments, the designer went on to focus efforts on accessories. Chanel enlisted the help of Count Etienne de Beaumont and Duke Fulco di Verdura to start an atelier dedicated to costume jewelery creations in which non-precious gems were combined with the purest ones. Extremely rich, almost opulent creations were necessary to the designer, who loved the essentiality of her dresses, and sought to perfectly balance them with whimsical accessories. It is now to be attributed to this period, the 30s, the birth of the Chanel 2.55, now known as the most copied bag in the world since the day it was created. Though counterfit products infuriates most creatives, Chanel didn't mind at all, explaining that "being plagiarized is the greatest compliment one can receive: it only happens to adults".
Photos courtesy of Chanel