Coco Chanel : 1 little black dress, 1 perfume, 1 legend
”My life didn’t please me, so I created my life”Born in 1883 in Saumur, a small city of West of France, Gabrielle Bonheur Chasnel was the daughter of an itinerant traveler and a laundrywoman. When she was registered in the civil records, the "s" was removed from her real name following a clerk writing mistake. Gabrielle was 12-years old when she lost her mother to tuberculosis. While her three brothers were sent to work on a farm, she was placed in a convent orphanage in the town of Aubazine along with her two sisters. There she learned a skill that will determine the path of her entire life: sewing.
In 1900, too old to stay in the convent, she found a job as a seamstress in a modest sewing workshop in the city of Moulins. At that time there was no ready-to-wear clothing. Aside from her regular work, she used to sing in a small café-concert, La Rotonde, and one of the songs, well known at that time, was “Qui qu'a vu Coco”, which means “Who saw Coco”. The audience liked the song and called her back on stage by chanting “Coco! Coco!”. The nickname that she will keep all her life and that will be the mark of the brand was chosen instead of her real name.
In 1906, after a failed attempt to find work as a singer in Vichy, Gabrielle Chasnel met Étienne Balsan, a rich dandy who introduced her to the high society of the luxurious Paris area. It was during her time with Balsan that she also met the love of her life in 1909: Arthur Capel, nicknamed “Boy Capel”, a rich upper-class English polo player who introduced her to literature and encouraged her to open a hat workshop.
”I don’t do fashion, I am fashion”
During her time with Balsan, Gabrielle Chasnel started to design hats and, what was initially a hobby became a business. In 1910, she obtained her license as a hat maker and, with the financial help of Arthur Capel, opened a boutique located in a fashionable district at 21 rue Cambon in the capital.
Within a couple of years, hats made by Mademoiselle Gabrielle Bonheur became well-known in the elegant ladies' circle and in 1912 the famous theater actress Gabrielle Dorziat wore her hats on stage. Boosted by this first success, Gabrielle opened a second boutique with another investment of Capel in the town of Deauville, a famous luxury resort destination on the coast of Normandy. There, in an attractive location in downtown, she introduced fashionable clothing made of jersey and tricot which were modest fabrics mainly used for men’s underwear. In order to promote her originally designed hats, sweaters, jackets and her famous “marinière”, the sailor blouse; she hired her sister Antoinette and her young aunt Adrienne to advertise the clothes by strolling around the town on a daily basis.
After Deauville, the success could not be stopped. In 1915 a third shop is opened in Biarritz targeting wealthy Spanish customers who flew the civil war. Set up in a villa near the city’s casino, the business was so profitable that the fashion designer managed to refund her lover’s investment in 1916. It is also in Biarritz that Coco Chanel started to socialize with Russian aristocrats. In 1919, she registered as a dressmaker and was able to purchase the entire building located at 31, rue Cambon building to make it her home and her atelier. The same year, her beloved Arthur Capel died in a car accident: it was the first and the last time that the Mademoiselle was seen shedding tears.
"I imposed black; it's still going strong today, for black wipes out everything else around."In 1926, the now-famous fashion designer publishes in Vogue magazine a photo of a black dress that was short, simple, with only a few diagonal lines for decoration. After the first World War, black was worn by the millions of widows and the “LBD”, the little black dress, was no less than a scandal. But in the context of economic depression, the little black dress, which was an affordable but elegant sartorial accessory became famous as many designers adopted it. Years later, in 1961, it was worn by Audrey Hepburn in the iconic movie “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”.
“A woman who doesn’t wear perfume has no future”
Until the beginning of the 1920s, women perfumes were separated into two categories: perfumes that smelled like separate flowers for respectable women, and sensual scents such as musk or jasmine for prostitutes and courtesans. To break the norms, the fashion designer wanted to launch a scent that would appeal to the flappers, the liberated women who enjoyed life and overcame traditions. For that purpose, she sought the services of Ernest Beaux, a French-Russian chemist, and perfumer introduced by her friend and lover, the Grand Duke Dmitri Pavlovich. In Cannes, during the summer of 1920, the perfumer presented his work to the fashion designer and she chose the number 5 saying: “I present my dress collections on the fifth of May, the fifth month of the year and so we will let this sample number five keep the name it has already, it will bring good luck.”
On Christmas 1921, only 100 flacons were produced and offered for free to the best clients of the shop. But with the explosion of the demand, Mrs. Gabrielle decided to launch the perfume in her boutiques in 1922. The rectangular design of the bottle was inspired by the toiletry containers of Capel which she admired. Chanel No 5 was so much a success that the owners of Galerie Lafayette bought the rights from Mademoiselle Gabrielle in 1924 and founded the Parfums Chanel.
”You live but once; you might as well be amusing”The death of the icon of fashion design in 1971 at the Ritz Carlton hotel in the French capital initiated the legend. To remember her story, the film director and screenwriter Anne Fontaine directed the biopic film “Coco Before Chanel” in 2008. This review of the life of the legendary Mademoiselle was played by Audrey Tautou, who incarnated Amélie Poulain. With a script based on the book of Edmonde Charles-Roux “The Non-Conformist”, the movie was released in France in 2009. Nominated for four BAFTA Awards, three European Film Awards, six César Awards and the Academy Award for Best Costume Design, the film focused on the woman behind the legend.
”As long as you know men are like children, you know everything!”Twenty-five years after her lover’s death, the Mademoiselle, then exiled in Switzerland, told her friend Paul Morand who quotes her: "His death was a terrible blow to me. In losing Capel, I lost everything. What followed was not a life of happiness, I have to say." The novel Coco and Igor, written in 2002 by the British novelist Chris Greenhalgh, retraces this period of grief that will be put on hold when the fashion designer started an affair with the Russian-born composer of The Rite of Spring in 1920. Subjugated by the personality and charisma of Igor Stravinsky, she invited him and his family to stay at her new residence in the suburb of Garches near the capital where she became his mistress. This passionate connection between two giant artists was put on the big screen in 2009 with the release of the film Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky, directed by Jan Kounen and played by the French actor Anna Mouglalis and the Danish actor Mads Mikkelsen. The movie was chosen as the Closing Film of the 2009 Cannes Film Festival
The dates of Fashion Week 2019From Monday, September 23rd to Tuesday, October 1st, 2019, the capital of France and of the world’s fashion is hosting the unmissable Fashion Week. Those week calendar dates mark a unique opportunity for the fashion designers of the planet to present their collections for Spring and Summer 2020 but also to unveil the trends of next season. The week calendar of the events can be found here.
The event’s shows usually take place in prestigious locations of the capital. Unfortunately, in recent years, designers and fashion houses now prefer to keep secret the show addresses until they take place. Without an invitation, you generally do not know where the different events of the capital’s Fashion Week are taking place. In order to obtain tickets, you will need to apply for accreditation from the French Federation of Fashion on their website and to be:
- Working in a media or press agency
- An accredited freelance journalist justifying of several publications
- A digital influencer specialized in fashion
We believe that you do not need tickets to be a fashionista. We craft porcelain and porcelain, like fashion, has been part of French history for the past three hundred years. Today you can enjoy both items in our fashion collection, the little black dress. A birthday or a wedding is coming soon ? Think of Pelote de Porcelaine for the best gift !