259: Coco Chanel
Born: 19 August 1883, Saumur, France
Died: 10 January 1971, Paris, France
Original Name: Gabrielle Chanel
She was also a savvy businesswoman who spent the majority of World War II dating a Nazi and might have shared intelligence with him while living in Paris.
Coco learned how to sew in the orphanage she was raised in. Her mother died early on and so her father abandoned her to the orphanage, so she was raised in extreme poverty.
Her first store opened in 1913 and she sold hats before launching her now iconic perfume Chanel Number 5. By the late 1920’s it is estimated Chanel employed around 2,000 people.
Coco was famous in the art and literacy worlds of Paris befriending composers and the likes of Pablo Picasso.
After World War II she went into self-imposed exile in Switzerland after the public thought of her as a Nazi Collaborator (though she was never charged). She would not return to fashion until 1954, making a triumphant return, introducing several new innovations like bell bottom pants and a highly sought after and copied suit design.
The brand Chanel was led by a series of different people from 1971 after Coco died until 1983, when Karl Lagerfeld was brought in to take over. Karl led Chanel until his own death in 2019.
Find a Grave Marked
Located In My Personal Library:
In Praise of Difficult Women by Karen Karbo
Historical Heartthrobs by Kelly Murphy
World War II Love Stories by Gill Paul
Time Magazine's 100 Women of the Year (Coco appears in the 1924 article, "Coco Chanel")