Designer Spotlight: CHANEL
"Dress shabbily and they remember the dress; dress impeccably and they remember the woman."
- Coco Chanel
Chanel is easily one of the most well-known and sought after brands in the world. The stunning quilted leather bags and iconic double c logos are instantly recognizable among every class and every country around the world. Before Coco Chanel, trousers were only for men, jersey material was just used for men's underwear, and costume jewelry was considered cheap. Coco Chanel paved the way for women's fashion and changed the way we look at luxury forever.
Founded in 1910 by the iconic Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel, this brand has remained one of the most recognizable and sought out brands in the world. Known for their elegant quilted leather bags, little black dresses, and double “c” logo this brand has created timeless designs that are still popular today. Coco Chanel was born in 1883 in Saumur, France. At the age of 12, Chanel was placed in an orphanage by her father following her mother’s death. Chanel was raised by nuns, who taught her to sew at a young age. At the age of 20, Chanel opened her first shop and started selling hats. She began designing clothing, and her first major hit was a jersey dress.
In the 1920s, Chanel released her first perfume, Chanel No. 5. This is, to date, the best-selling perfume in the world. This perfume was the first to have a designer's name attached to it and it quickly became a huge hit. Perfume “is the unseen, unforgettable, ultimate accessory of fashion….that heralds your arrival and prolongs your departure,” Chanel once explained.
Chanel’s brand aesthetic can best be described as classic, elegant, and refined. This aesthetic has helped this brand stay as relevant and timeless as it has. Most of Chanel’s designs include leather, tweed, and chains as primary materials. They have a heavy feminine focus with pieces like pearls, ladylike suits, and figure-flattering silhouettes. A french inspiration can also be found throughout Chanel’s designs.
The Chanel 2.55 Classic Flap Bag
Released in 1955, this bag was revolutionary for the upper-class ladies of the 1950s. This bag is a remake of her first quilted jersey flap bag designed in 1929. Coco redesigned this bag to free up the hands of women who were originally carrying clutches. She added the chain straps to this bag, and for the first time, it was acceptable for women to carry a bag on their shoulder. The name 2.55 is composed of the date of its creation; “2” for February and “55” for 1955. The iconic diamond stitching was inspired by equestrian accessories.
The back pocket on the bag was inspired by Coco’s love for the Mona Lisa. The pocket on the bag has a slight curve, reminiscent of her subtle smile.
The interior lining of the original 2.55 bags is a burgundy leather. This was inspired by the color of the uniform that Chanel wore at the orphanage where she was raised.
The Chanel No. 5 fragrance
Chanel No. 5 is still one of the most popular fragrances in the world. The fragrance is constructed with mostly floral scents; jasmine, lilac, and rose. Ernest Beaux, the creator of the fragrance used aldehyde, never before used in perfumery. This ingredient exaggerates the notes and makes them “sparkle”. When creating this fragrance, Coco was wanting to create "a woman's perfume, with a woman's scent,"
Coco Chanel was inspired by menswear but making them feminine and comfortable. She designed the jacket to fit more like a cardigan, so it would be less restrictive. She was inspired after borrowing the Duke of Westminster’s sportswear. She became attracted to the sophistication of the fabric.
The current creative director of Chanel, Karl Lagerfeld, is known to look to Chanel’s past for inspiration for new designs. This is just another reason Chanel has remained such a timeless staple brand. This bag, released in 2011 was paying homage to the love of Coco’s life Arthur “Boy” Capel. Karl Lagerfeld stated, “Chanel used men’s underwear to make dresses; she had this boyish attitude, in fact, it is the very spirit of Chanel. She got it from Boy Capel, the great love of her life, which, incidentally, explains why the new bag is called the Boy Chanel.
Released in 1957, the Two-Tone shoes have remained an iconic design surviving the test of time. The press even called them, “The new Cinderella slipper”. The two-toned shoe was designed to elongate the leg, and shorten the food. Not to mention, they went with everything. They were, and continue to be a staple piece in any woman's closet.
The Breton Top
Coco Chanel took a trip to the French coast and noticed the sailor-like stripes on the french navy uniform. She was so inspired that she launched the stripes into her 1917 nautical collection. This print changed casual wear for women forever, as the design helped breakaway the heavily corseted fashion of the time.
The Little Black Dress
The little black dress was thought to be elegant and accessible to all women. It was an incredible staple piece that doesn't have to break the bank. Vogue released Chanel’s simple black dress accessorized with a string of pearls calling it “Chanel’s Ford” this meant it was simple and accessible to women of all classes. The timing of this release fit perfectly with the priorities of the time, as it was released in the Great Depression Era.
"Fashion changes, but style endures."
- Coco Chanel