“Simplicity is the keynote of all true elegance” – Coco Chanel
When you think of the sexy image that is the 1920’s Flapper, think of Coco Chanel. Her designs were meant to give women a sense of freedom and her use of poor fabrics cut to look rich made her a legend. Her designs revolutionized fashion and her tremendous beauty made the coin purse of many a suitor fall open easily. You may know her name from the signature fragrance but this Hottie of History has been making money since the early 1900s. Her first fragrance “Chanel No. 5” was the first to have a designer’s name placed on it and the year was 1912.
Gabrielle Coco Chanel was born in a poorhouse and grew up in the orphanage of a Roman Catholic monastery. While in the orphanage she learned to sew and at 18 years of age she left and took up work as a tailor. While working as a tailor, Coco began an affair with a millionaire playboy by the name of Étienne Balsan. Like many people who grew up without, she learned to take advantage of his luxuries (he showered her with diamonds and pearls), was bitten by the money bug and pursued entrepreneurship. Opening a shop in 1913, Chanel designed hats and sold raincoats but it didn’t last and she was forced to close it. After meeting up with one of Étienne’s best friends and falling in love with him (how convenient), Chanel got the financial backing to open another shop which was quite successful in having actresses and aristocrats wear her merchandise.
Rumored to have many affairs with rich men throughout her life, one of her most notable affairs being with a Nazi during World War 2. After the war started and fashion was on a decline (people’s attention was rightfully elsewhere), Coco allegedly closed her shops and stayed in the hotel of Hans Gunther von Dincklage, a Nazi Spy. She also setup her former muse Vera Bate Lombardi to act as liaison to Churchill for the Nazis but the plan failed when Vera didn’t comply. This latter failure placed her in hot water with the Germans and she was arrested for spying and thrown into a Gestapo prison. Chanel may have tipped off her former friend as to the motives of her summons but she was later arrested for war crimes that never saw trial. The British Royal Family stepped in to help Chanel during her mess of affairs and she returned to Paris to resume her fashion work. Though shunned and boycotted for her work with the Nazis by her fellow Parisians, she moved to Switzerland and still did well with her work..
Although she broke bad with Paris for her Nazi affair, Americans and Brits still loved Chanel designs and her career continued to flourish. Coco Chanel died in 1971 of a heart attack, and she was 87 years old. You know for a woman who was seldom seen without a cancer stick in her fingers, she aged extremely well!
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