In 2014 Chanel is probably the best known and most iconic fashion house in the world. But how much do you really know about Chanel??
Gabrielle Chanel was born to an unwed laundry woman in a charity hospital. Her mother "Jeanne" died when her daughter was only twelve years old. Later in life Gabrielle lied about her upbringing and origins as a laundry woman's daughter.
By the time she came to work she had learnt how to sew but longed for a career on the stage. She sung in a cabaret and did a season in Vichy where she tried to find work as a performer. Although she eventually decided that a stage career was not for her, it was at this time that Gabrielle acquired the name Coco.
Coco the Mistress
|Chanel and Balsan|
However, in 1908 Coco then began an affair with one of Balsan's friends Captain Arthur Edward "Boy" Capel. Years later Chanel spoke of the two gentlemen who were "outbidding for my hot little body". It was in fact Boy Capel who financed Coco's first shops and her apartment. Later it was even said that Boy's style influenced Chanel's designs and was the main influence of the Chanel No.5 bottle.
Their affair lasted nine years but even after Boy married they never really lost contact. His death in a car accident in 1918 was the single most devastating event in Chanel's life.
Chanel in the War
|Chanel going into her first ever shop bought|
by Boy Capel
A controversial part of Chanel's character was her strong hatred of Jews which was supposedly formed from her early life at a convent. Chanel used this as an excuse to make more profit on her best selling product Chanel No.5. Parfums Chanel was partly owned by a Jewish family called the Wertheimers. The Nazis said that any property like this that Jews owned now did not belong to them. Coco wrote a petition to the Nazis so that she could have sole ownership of this part of her company.
What Coco didn't know was that the Wertheimers had cleverly handed over the ownership to a Christian friend of theirs to keep hold of until war was over.
The legal battle did not end there, however. Chanel and her co-owners of Parfums Chanel continued their precarious legal battle; if Chanel's anti-semitism was revealed at this time it could ruin the brand's reputation and damage profits for both parties.
Finally, in 1947 the two powerhouses came to an agreement, the same agreement that they had made all those years ago in 1924.Coco herself received only two percent of sales of Chanel No.5 worldwide but gained all the profit that came from the perfumes during the war which in today's money would be worth around nine million US dollars. Wertheimer also payed for all of Coco's living expenses.
Chanel was in fact earning the modern equivalent of 25 million dollars a year.
Coco the Spy
During the war Chanel reportedly had an affair with the German officer Baron Hans Guenther Dincklage. Supposedly through this relationship Coco managed to secure the release of her nephew from a prisoner of war camp in Germany. As well as this, Coco also used this to try to get the Nazis to listen to her petition over the rights to Chanel Parfums.
Chanel actually reported to only travel to Madrid to try and gain political information but according to some German files she actually recieved very little information.
Coco continued to work until her death in 1971 when she was aged 88. By this time she was living as one of the most famous and influential women in the world in her own private apartment in the Parisian Ritz. Not bad for a laundry woman's daughter.
Chanel in Pictures
|A 1970s No.5 Campaign|
|Chanel 2013 Campaign|
|Chanel Tumblr Art|
|Penelope Cruz in Chanel at the Oscars|
|Karl Lagerfield Current Head Designer and Creative Director|