Chanel, the famed French fashion house, came about in 1909 under the helm of the eponymous Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel. Originally a milliner, Mme. Chanel opened her shop in 1910 and designed hats that were immediately embraced by the Parisian elite. Chanel was quite charismatic, sophisticated, witty and driven to succeed, all of which proved to attract men of the aristocracy who introduced her to the French society. In 1913, Chanel opened a store in Deauville and began to offer clothing. Consistent with the reputation that she would earn for liberating women from corseted clothing, Chanel's initial collections were sporty and casual and made from relatively inexpensive materials, such as jersey. In 1915, a second store opened in Biarritz; this store prospered due to Biarritz being a playground for the wealthy in WWI. With the profits, Chanel opened her store on 31 Rue Cambon, a fashionable street in Paris, which remains Chanel's flagship location more than a century later. Chanel expanded her product line offering not only hats and clothing, but also fragrances (Chanel No.5 was introduced in 1921), jewelry and accessories. Within a few years, she owed and operated out of several buildings on Rue Cambon. Her business prospered, attributed to her unique style of clothing and her extensive social network.
In 1939, Chanel closed her business due to WWII. The business remained closed until around 1954. In February 1955, Chanel introduced the iconic 2.55 handbag (named after the date of introduction). Originally made of jersey or leather typically with the mademoiselle lock closure, the bag has evolved into one of the most coveted bags today. Chanel died in 1971.
In 1983, Karl Lagerfeld became artistic director and revitalized the House of Chanel while maintaining Coco Chanel's original vision. The Chanel suit, the little black dress, the camellia, the simulated stones, and the 2.55 handbag are among the legacies of Coco Chanel that remain cornerstones of every Chanel collection. Even as new items are introduced, many are built on the life of Chanel. For example, the Boy bag, introduced in 2013 is name after Boy Capel, the man who financed Chanel's first shops.
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