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|Gabrielle "Coco" Chanel|
Coco Chanel, 1920
|Born||Gabrielle Bonheur Chanel|
19 August 1883
|Died||10 January 1971 (aged 87)|
|Education||Catholic Monastery in Aubazine|
|Awards||Neiman Marcus Fashion Award, 1957|
Gabrielle Bonheur "Coco" Chanel (19 August 1883 – 10 January 1971) was a pioneering French fashion designer whose modernist philosophy, menswear-inspired fashions, and pursuit of expensive simplicity made her an important figure in 20th-century fashion. She was the founder of the famous fashion brand Chanel. Her extraordinary influence on fashion was such that she was the only person in the couturier field to be named on Time 100: The Most Important People of the Century.
 Early life
Chanel was born in Saumur, France. She was the second daughter of Albert Chanel and Jeanne Devolle, a market stallholder and laundrywoman respectively at the time of her birth. Her birth was declared by employees of the hospital in which she was born. They, being illiterate, could not provide or confirm the correct spelling of the surname and it was recorded by the mayor François Poitou as "Chasnel". This misspelling made the tracing of her roots almost impossible for biographers when Chanel later rose to prominence. Her parents married in 1883. She had five siblings: two sisters, Julie (1882–1913) and Antoinette (born 1887) and three brothers, Alphonse (born 1885), Lucien (born 1889) and Augustin (born and died 1891). In 1895, when she was 12 years old, Chanel's mother died of tuberculosis and her father left the family. Because of this, the young Chanel spent six years in the orphanage of the Roman Catholic monastery of Aubazine, where she learned the trade of a seamstress. School vacations were spent with relatives in the provincial capital, where female relatives taught Coco to sew with more flourish than the nuns at the monastery were able to demonstrate. When Coco turned eighteen, she left the orphanage, and the ambitious young girl took off for the town of Moulins to become a cabaret singer. During this time, Chanel performed in clubs in Vichy and Moulins where she was called “Coco.” Some say that the name comes from one of the songs she used to sing, and Chanel herself said that it was a “shortened version of coquette, the French word for ‘kept woman,” according to an article in The Atlantic.
Hat by Chanel, 1912. Published in Les Modes
 Personal life and entry into fashion
While she failed to get steady work as a singer, it was at Moulins that she met rich, young French textile heir Étienne Balsan, to whom she soon became an acknowledged mistress, keeping her day job in a tailoring shop. Balsan lavished on her the beauties of "the rich life": diamonds, dresses and pearls. While living with Balsan, Chanel began designing hats as a hobby, which soon became a deeper interest of hers. "After opening her eyes," as she would say, Coco left Balsan and took over his apartment in Paris. Biographer Justine Picardie, in her 2010 study Coco Chanel: The Legend and the Life (Harper Collins), suggests that the fashion designer's nephew André Palasse—supposedly the only child of her sister Julie—may actually have been Chanel's child by Balsan.
In 1909 Chanel met and began an affair with one of Balsan's friends, Captain Arthur Edward 'Boy' Capel.
Capel financed Chanel's first shops and his own clothing style, notably his jersey blazers, inspired her creation of the Chanel look. The couple spent time together at fashionable resorts such as Deauville, but he was never faithful to Chanel.
The affair lasted nine years, but even after Capel married an aristocratic English beauty in 1918, he did not completely break off with Chanel. His death in a car accident, in late 1919, was the single most devastating event in Chanel's life.
According to local report a roadside memorial at the site of the accident was placed there by Chanel, who visited it in later years to place flowers there.
Chanel became a licensed modiste (hat maker) in 1910 and opened a boutique at 21 rue Cambon, Paris named Chanel Modes. Chanel's modiste career bloomed once theatre actress Gabrielle Dorziat modelled her hats in the F Noziere's play Bel Ami in 1912 (Subsequently, Dorizat modelled her hats again in Les Modes). In 1913, she established a boutique in Deauville, where she introduced luxe casual clothes that were suitable for leisure and sport. Chanel launched her career as fashion designer when she opened her next boutique, titled Chanel-Biarritz, in 1915, catering for the wealthy Spanish clientele who holidayed in Biarritz and were less affected by the war. Fashionable like Deauville, Chanel created loose casual clothes made out of jersey, a material typically used for men's underwear. By 1919, Chanel was registered as a couturiere and established her maison de couture at 31 rue Cambon.
Later in life, she concocted an elaborate false history for her humble beginnings. Chanel would steadfastly claim that when her mother died, her father sailed for America to get rich and she was sent to live with two cold-hearted spinster aunts. She even claimed to have been born in 1893 as opposed to 1883, and that her mother had died when Coco was two instead of twelve.
In 1920, she was introduced by ballet impresario Sergei Diaghilev to world-famous composer Igor Stravinsky (who composed 'The Rite of Spring'), to whom she extended an offer for him and his family to reside with her. During this temporary sojourn it was rumoured that they had an affair.
In 1924, Chanel made an agreement with the Wertheimer brothers, Pierre and Paul, directors of the eminent perfume house Bourgeois since 1917, creating a corporate entity, "Parfums Chanel." The Wertheimers agreed to provide full financing for production, marketing and distribution of Chanel No. 5. For ten percent of the stock, Chanel licensed her name to "Parfums Chanel" and removed herself from involvement in all business operations. Displeased with the arrangement, Chanel worked for more than twenty years to gain full control of "Parfums Chanel." She proclaimed that Pierre Wertheimer was “the bandit who screwed me.” 
Coco dated some of the most influential men of her time, but she never married. The reason may be found in her answer, when asked why she did not marry the Duke of Westminster: "There have been several Duchesses of Westminster. There is only one Chanel."
In 1925, Vera Bate Lombardi, née Sarah Gertrude Arkwright, reputedly the illegitimate daughter of the Marquess of Cambridge, became Chanel's muse, and also her liaison to a number of European royal families. Chanel established the English look based upon Lombardi's personal style. Lombardi also had the highest possible social connections. She introduced Chanel to her uncle, the Duke of Westminster, her cousin, the Duke of Windsor, and many other aristocratic families. In 1927 she built Villa La Pausa in Roquebrune on the French Riviera hiring the architect Robert Streitz. The villa has a staircase and a patio inspired by her orphanage, Aubazine. La Pausa has been partially replicated at the Dallas Museum of Art to welcome the Reves collection and part of Chanel's original furniture for the house.
It was in 1931 while in Monte Carlo that Chanel made the acquaintance of Samuel Goldwyn. The introduction was made through a mutual friend, The Grand Duke Dmitri Pavlovich, cousin to the last czar of Russia, Nicolas II. Goldwyn offered Chanel a tantalizing proposition. For the sum of a million dollars (approximately seventy-five million today), he would bring her to Hollywood twice a year to design costumes for MGM stars. Chanel accepted the offer. En route to California from New York traveling in a white train car, which had been luxuriously outfitted specifically for her use, she was interviewed by Colliers magazine in 1932. Chanel said she had agreed to the arrangement to “see what the pictures have to offer me what I have to offer the pictures.” 
 World War II
In 1939, at the beginning of World War II, Chanel closed her shops. She believed that it was not a time for fashion. During the German occupation Chanel resided at the Hotel Ritz, which was also noteworthy for being the preferred place of residence for upper echelon German military staff. She also maintained an apartment above her couture house at 31 rue Cambon. During that time she was criticized for having an affair with Hans Günther von Dincklage, a German officer and Nazi spy who arranged for her to remain in the hotel.
World War II, specifically the Nazi seizure of all Jewish owned property and business enterprises provided Chanel with the opportunity to gain the full monetary fortune generated by "Parfums Chanel" and its most profitable product, Chanel No. 5. The directors of "Parfums Chanel", the Wertheimers, were Jewish, and Chanel used her position as an “Aryan” to petition German officials
Gabrielle Bonheur Chanel in 1910`s
to legalize her right to sole ownership. On May 5, 1941, she wrote to the government administrator charged with ruling on the disposition of Jewish financial assets. Her grounds for proprietary ownership were based on the claim that “Parfums Chanel “is still the property of Jews”…and had been legally “abandoned” by the owners.
“I have,” she wrote, “an indisputable right of priority…the profits that I have received from my creations since the foundation of this business…are disproportionate…[and] you can help to repair in part the prejudices I have suffered in the course of these seventeen years.” Chanel was not aware that the Wertheimers, anticipating the forthcoming Nazi mandates against Jews had, in May 1940, legally turned control of “Parfums Chanel” over to a Christian, French businessman and industrialist, Felix Amiot.
Ultimately, the Wertheimers and Chanel came to a mutual accommodation, re-negotiating the original 1924 contract. On May 17, 1947, Chanel received wartime profits of Chanel No. 5 in the amount of some nine million dollars in today’s money, and in the future her share would be two percent of all Chanel No. 5 sales worldwide. The financial benefit to herself would be enormous. Her earnings would be in the vicinity of twenty-five million dollars a year, making her at the time one of the richest women in the world.
 Chanel’s friend and biographer Marcel Haedrich provided a telling estimation of her wartime interaction with the Nazi regime: “If one took seriously the few disclosures that Mademoiselle Chanel allowed herself to make about those black years of the occupation, one’s teeth would be set on edge.” 
In 1943, after four years of professional separation, Chanel contacted Lombardi, who was living in Rome. She invited Lombardi to come to Paris and renew their work together. This was actually a cover for "Operation Modellhut", an attempt by Nazi spymaster Walter Schellenberg to make secret contact with Lombardi's relative Winston Churchill. When Lombardi refused, she was arrested as a British spy by the Gestapo. Chanel was later charged as a collaborator, but avoided trial due to intervention by the British Royal family.
Chanel was a very close friend of Walter Schellenberg to the extent that when he died of cancer penniless in Turin, Chanel paid for his funeral.
Some references  suggest that Coco Chanel had close contact with another Nazi, Walter Kutschmann, who was responsible for the murder of thousands of Poland's Jews early in World War II. He was transferred to France in 1943 where he became Chanel's Paris SS contact. Kutschmann made frequent trips to Spain with Chanel with large sums of money passing between them.
 Later years
In 1945, she moved to Switzerland, eventually returning to Paris in 1954, the same year she returned to the fashion world. The re-establishment of her couture house in 1954 was fully financed by Chanel’s old nemesis in the perfume battle, Pierre Wertheimer. This new contractual agreement would also allow Wertheimer to maintain ownership of “Parfums Chanel.” In return, Wertheimer agreed to an unusual arrangement proposed by Chanel herself, attempting to revive her youthful years as the kept woman of wealthy men. Wertheimer would pay for all of Chanel’s expenses from the large to the trivial for as long as she lived.
Her new collection did not have much success with the Parisians because of her relationship with the Nazis; However, it was much applauded by the British and Americans, who became her faithful customers.
 Film depictions
The first film about Chanel was Chanel Solitaire (1981), directed by George Kaczender and starring Marie-France Pisier, Timothy Dalton and Rutger Hauer.
The American television movie Coco Chanel debuted on 13 September 2008 on Lifetime Television, starring Shirley MacLaine as a 70-year-old Chanel. Directed by Christian Duguay, the film also starred Barbora Bobulova as the young Chanel, Olivier Sitruk as Boy Capel, and Malcolm McDowell. The movie could be viewed as rewritten history for the Chanel company, as it portrayed Coco's mistress life as love stories, left out her Nazi collaboration and her use of royal connections to avoid trial. The movie also left out possible comparisons between her and Mata Hari, the World War I spy who was also a dancer and courtesan to the rich. However, any such comparison to Mata Hari may be viewed favorably today as she was said by the Gestapo to be working for the British.
A film starring Audrey Tautou as the young Coco, titled Coco avant Chanel (Coco Before Chanel), was released on 22 April 2009. Audrey Tautou is the new spokeswoman of Chanel S.A.
The film Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky, directed by Jan Kounen and starring Anna Mouglalis and Mads Mikkelsen, concerns the purported affair between Chanel and Igor Stravinsky. The film is based on the 2002 novel Coco & Igor by Chris Greenhalgh, and was chosen to close the Cannes Film Festival of 2009. Two more projects are said to be in the works, including one directed by Daniele Thompson.
 Literary depictions
Coco & Igor is a novel, written by Chris Greenhalgh, which depicts the affair between Chanel and Igor Stravinsky and the creative achievements that this affair inspired. The novel was first published in 2003.
In 2008 a children's book entitled Different like Coco was published. It depicted the humble childhood of Coco Chanel and chronicled how she made drastic changes to the fashion industry.
Chanel boutique on Rodeo Drive (Beverly Hills)
The Gospel According to Coco Chanel: Life Lessons from the World's Most Elegant Woman is a novel written by Karen Karbo. Published in 2009, it chronicles the humble beginnings and legendary achievements of Coco Chanel while providing insight and advice on everything from embracing the moment to living life on your own terms.
 Further reading
- Charles-Roux, Edmonde (2005). The World of Coco Chanel: Friends, Fashion, Fame. London: Thames & Hudson. ISBN 9780500512166.
- Davis, Mary. "Chanel, Stravinsky, and Musical Chic". Fashion Theory 10, no. 4 (December 2006): 431–60.
- Morand, Paul. L’Allure de Chanel. Paris: Hermann, 1976. Nouv. éd. du texte original, Paris: Hermann, 1996. ISBN 2705663169. Reprinted, [Paris]: Gallimard, 2009. ISBN 9782070396559. English as The Allure of Chanel, translated by Euan Cameron. London: Pushkin Press, 2008. ISBN 9781901285987 (pbk). Special illustrated ed. London: Pushkin, 2009. ISBN 9781906548100 (pbk).
- Picardie, Justine. Coco Chanel: The Legend and the Life, New York: HarperCollins, 2010, ISBN 9780061963858.
- ^ "Madamoiselle Chanel: The Perennially Fashionable". Chanel. Retrieved 2006-10-13.
- ^ Horton, Ros; Simmons, Sally (2007). Women Who Changed the World. Quercus. p. 103. ISBN 9781847240262. Retrieved 2010-09-21.
- ^ Madsen, Axel (1991). Chanel: A Woman of Her Own. Holt Paperbacks. p. 4. ISBN 9780805016390.
- ^ "At this time in 1909, at the age of 26, she became friendly with an Englishman Arthur Capel, nicknamed “Boy”, who was one of Etienne [Balsan]’s friends..."Hirst, Gwendoline. "Chanel1883 - 1971 (Part One)", BA Fashion. Retrieved 21 September 2010.
- ^ "That year was to prove a difficult one for Gabrielle as Arthur Capel decided that the time had come for him to marry into the English aristocracy. Arthur Capel was a very successful businessman and a keen polo player. Gabrielle hoped to settle down with him, but he was often away on business and was usually seen in the company of other women...."
- ^ "Even though he was married Capel still sought out Gabrielle when he was in Paris. But all this was to come to an abrupt end. On December 21, 1919 Arthur Capel was driving to Cannes for Christmas when he was involved in a fatal accident."
- ^ The memorial consists of a cross, raised on three steps and railed around, and bears the inscription "A la mémoire du capitaine Arthur Capel, légion d'Honneur de l'armée britane, mort accidentellement en cet endroit le 22 décembre 1919". Allegedly it was Chanel who had it placed there. http://www.varmatin.com/ta/puget-sur-argens/192577/puget-sur-argens-coco-chanel-le-drame-de-sa-vie-au-bord-d-une-route-varoise
- ^ a b c d e f Mackrell, Alice. "Art and Fahion". Chrysalis Books Group.2005. Link label.
- ^ a b c Adelia Sabatini (2010). "The House that Dreams Built". Glass Magazine (2): 66–71. ISSN 2041-6318.
- ^ a b Mazzeo, Tilar J. (2010). The Secret of Chanel No. 5. HarperCollins. pp. 95. ISBN 978-0061791017.
- ^ Tilar J. Mazzeo, The Secret of Chanel No. 5, HarperCollins, 2010, p. 153
- ^ "Coco Chanel Biography". Inoutstar.com. Retrieved 2010-02-22.
- ^ a b "Sarah Vera Gertrude Arkwright Bate Lombardi - Person Page 15929". thePeerage.com. Retrieved 2010-09-20.
- ^ a b c Charles-Roux, Edmonde (1975). Chanel: Her Life, Her World, and the Woman Behind the Legend She Herself Created. Random House. pp. 249, 250, 256, 323, 331–43, 355, 359. ISBN 9780394476131.
- ^ The Wendy and Emery Reeves Collection, Richard R. Bretell (1995)
- ^ Tilar J. Mazzeo, The Secret of Chanel No.5, HarperCollins, 2010, p. 127
- ^ a b Tilar J. Mazzeo, The Secret of Chanel No. 5, HarperCollins, 2010, p. 150
- ^ Tilar J. Mazzeo, The Secret of Chanel No. 5, HarperCollins, 2010, p. 152-53
- ^ Tilar J. Mazzeo, The Secret of Chanel No. 5, HarperCollins, 2010, p. 176-77
- ^ Chanel and the Nazis: what Coco Avant Chanel and other films don't tell you The Times. 4 April 2009
- ^ Tilar J. Mazzeo, The Secret of Chanel No. 5, HarperCollins, 2010, p. 175
- ^ Thurman, Judith (2005-05-23). "Scenes from a Marriage, the House of Chanel at the Met". The New Yorker. Retrieved 2010-09-20.
- ^ Friedman, Max Paul (April 2004). "Argentina's Disappearing Odessa Files by H-Net Reviews". H-net.org. Retrieved 2010-09-20.
- ^ "SS agent Hans Sommer interrogation 10 December 1946". National Archives and Records Administration RG 59, 250/38/13/6, Box 6749, Decimal File 862.20252. p. 25.
- ^ Tilar J. Mazzeo, The secret of Chanel No. 6, HarperCollins, 2010
- ^ Dr Larif M Shihaan. "Chanel Cuff Bracelet-Gabrielle Coco Chanel-Fine Jewelry-Reference Database". Internet Stones.COM. Retrieved 2010-02-22.
- ^ "Coco Chanel" telepic boasts pleasing aroma, Reuters, 11 September 2008.
- ^ "Festival de Cannes: Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky". festival-cannes.com. Retrieved 2009-05-15.
- ^ ""2009: The Year of Coco Chanel" 21 February 2010". Lightscamerahistory.wordpress.com. Retrieved 2010-02-22.
 External links