Coco Chanel : Designer for the modern woman
Coco Chanel (1883- 1971): Through determination and ambition, Coco Chanel began her career as a designer of fine women’s clothes and accessories.
Coco Chanel’s philosophy was to emphasize understated elegance through her clothing. Her popularity thrived in the 1920s, because of innovative designs. Chanel’s own look itself was as different and new as her creations. Instead of the usual pale-skinned, long-haired and full-bodied women preferred at the time, Chanel had a boyish figure, short cropped hair, and tanned skin. She had a distinct type of beauty that the world came to embrace.
“Horse”culture and a penchant for hunting, passionately pursued by the elites (especially the British), fired Chanel’s imagination. Her own enthusiastic indulgence in the sporting life led to clothing designs inspired by those activities. From her excursions on water with the yachting world, she appropriated the clothing associated with nautical pursuits: the horizontal striped shirt, bell-bottom pants, crewneck sweaters, and espadrille shoes—all traditionally worn by sailors and fishermen.
In 1918 Ms. Chanel, being such a savvy business woman, acquired the entire building at 31 rue Cambon situated in one of the most fashionable districts of Paris. In 1921 she opened what may be considered an early incarnation of the fashion boutique, featuring clothing, hats, and accessories later expanded to offer jewelry and fragrance. By 1927 Chanel owned an expanse of five properties on the rue Cambon . 21 Rue Cambon is the current address of the Chanel Shop in Paris and has been there as Chanel shop/workshop since 1913.
Her initial triumph was the innovative use of jersey fabric in her famous Chanel suit, a machine knit material traditionally used in the manufacture of undergarments. Her wool jersey traveling suit consisted of a cardigan jacket, and pleated skirt, paired with a low-belted pullover top. This ensemble, worn with low-heeled shoes, became the casual look in expensive women’s wear.
Identifying a need to liberate women’s hands from the encumbrance of a hand held bag, Chanel conceived of a handbag that would accomplish this stylishly. Christened the “2.55” (named after the date of the bag’s creation: February 1955), its design, as with much of her creative inspiration, was inspired by her love of the sporting world.
The original version was constructed of jersey or leather, the outside featuring a hand-stitched quilted design influenced by the jackets worn by jockeys. The chain strap was a nod to her orphanage years, reminiscent to Chanel of the abbey caretakers who wore such waist chains to hold keys. The burgundy red uniform worn by the convent girls was transmuted into the bag’s interior lining. The bag design went through a reincarnation in the 1980s when it was updated by Karl Lagerfeld. Known as the Reissue, the bag retained its original classic shape, with the clasp and chain strap differing from its initial form. Lagerfeld worked the House of Chanel logo, “CC” into the rectangular twist lock and wove leather through the shoulder chain.
Also credited with the ” little black dress “, Chanel designed the original LBD in thin silk, crèpe de chine, and long sleeves and has become a contribution to fashion that survives to this day.