Gabrielle “Coco” Bonheur Chanel (August 19, 1883 – January 10, 1971) was a French fashion designer and founder of the Chanel brand. She was the only fashion designer to appear on Time magazine’s list of the 100 most influential people of the 20th century.
Along with Paul Poiret, Chanel was credited with liberating women from the constraints of the “corseted silhouette” and popularizing the acceptance of a sportive, casual chic as the feminine standard in the post-World War I era. A prolific fashion creator, Chanel’s influence extended beyond couture clothing. Her design aesthetic was realized in jewelry, handbags, and fragrance. Her signature scent, Chanel No. 5, has become an iconic product.
Chanel was known for her lifelong determination, ambition and energy which she applied to her professional and social life. She achieved both success as a businesswoman and social prominence thanks to the connections she made through her work. These included many artists and craftspeople to whom she became a patron.
However, Chanel’s highly competitive, opportunistic personality led her to make questionable life choices which have generated controversy around her reputation, particularly her behaviour during the German occupation of France in World War II.
: Coco Chanel (1962). Photography by Doug Kirkland
One of the first women to wear trousers, cut her hair and reject the corset was Coco Chanel. Probably the most influential woman in fashion of the 20th century, Coco Chanel did much to further the emancipation and freedom of women’s fashion.