Gabrielle Bonheur Chanel, better known as Coco Chanel, was born on August 19, 1883. She was a French fashion designer and founder of the Chanel empire. Chanel is the only fashion designer on “Time” magazine’s list of the 100 most important people in 20th-century history and remains a key personality in the fashion world today. Let’s celebrate her birthday today.
Gabrielle Bonheur Chanel
August 19, 1883
January 10, 1971 (age 87)
Gabrielle Bonheur Chanel was born on August 19, 1883, in Saumur, a small town near Nantes, to a washerwoman and a clothing salesman. Her mother died when she was 12 from tuberculosis, so Chanel went to live in a boarding school in the Abbey of Aubazine, far from her hometown. Life in the French countryside exposed Chanel to the art of sewing, an activity she practiced at the boarding school where she grew up and, later, at the boarding house where she lived in the city of Moulins. When Chanel was 16, she was reunited with Adrienne, her mother’s younger sister. They both wanted to improve their lifestyle. So they started working as seamstresses at Maison Grampayre, a trousseau atelier, allowing Chanel to take the first steps toward her decades-long fashion career.
But sewing was only one of Chanel’s passions; she was fond of music as well. As luck would have it, on one of her singing nights in town, she met Étienne Balsan, her first boyfriend, a textile heir who introduced her to French high society. Her relationship with Balsan did not last long; however, his efforts in introducing Chanel to high society persisted long in her memory. Soon, Chanel fell in love with Arthur Edward Capel, an English millionaire. Seeing Chanel’s love for sewing, Capel decided to invest in her talent and helped her open her first hat store. A few years later, Chanel became the most sought-after designer in Paris, and in 1935, she reached her professional peak, with 4,000 employees, mostly women, working in ateliers and stores for her across France.
In 1939, The outbreak of World War II in France forced Chanel to close her clothing stores. However, she wasn’t deterred, and her return in 1954 was so tremendous that she won over the biggest stars of the time. Elizabeth Taylor, Jane Fonda, and Jackie Kennedy all wore Chanel from head to toe, making the pieces increasingly desirable. Even though half a century has passed since her death, the Chanel name remains synonymous with elegance and good taste.
With the help of Balsan, Chanel becomes a licensed milliner and opens a boutique at 21 rue Cambon.
Financed by Arthur Capel, Chanel opens a boutique in Deauville and introduces deluxe casual clothing.
Chanel gets registered as a couturier and opens her shop in one of the most fashionable districts of Paris.
Chanel creates the perfume that makes her a celebrity.
With the beginning of World War II, Chanel closes her shops, claiming it is not time for fashion.
Chanel relaunches her collection in France, the U.K., and the U.S., becoming an instant hit.
Why We Love Coco Chanel
She brought comfort to women
In the early 1900s, it was common for women to wear corsets and long, heavy dresses. Chanel’s clothes, on the other hand, were just as comfortable as men's.
She was independent
Despite having a slew of lovers throughout her life, Chanel chose not to marry or have children. Her professional career was always her priority.
She invented the shoulder bag
As uncomfortable as it seems, before the Chanel 2.55 bag, women used to carry purses in their hands or under their arms. Chanel’s designer bag revolutionized the bag-carrying game.
5 Surprising Facts
She used to be a singer
Chanel’s nickname was given by officers who used to hear her perform.
Her lucky number was five
The name of the famous perfume "Chanel no. 5" comes from one of Chanel’s favorite numbers: five.
She invented commercial women's pants
She designed and produced the first pair of women's pants.
She used to live in hotels
During her last years, Chanel took up residence in hotels, where she wouldn't feel alone.
She made the little black dress
In 1926, Chanel stressed that the little black dress was mandatory in every woman's wardrobe.
Coco Chanel FAQs
Are Coco and Chanel the same thing?
No. Coco is the founder, and Chanel is the brand.
Who owns the Chanel brand now?
Currently, the chairman of Chanel is Alain Wertheimer.
What were Coco Chanel’s last words?
“You see, this is how you die,” she said to her maid Celine.
Coco Chanel’s birthday dates