14 Amazing Facts About Coco Chanel’s Iconic Fashion Legacy

Laura Tolentino

Coco Chanel facts

How much do you really know about Coco Chanel?

Coco Chanel facts

Coco Chanel changed fashion and was responsible for various innovations we still see as the norm in the fashion industry. However, there is so much more to her than the signature scent, the really witty remarks she made, the gold-chained handbags and the rags-to-riches story of her life. It is always great to know more about these personalities so let’s talk about some Coco Chanel facts that everyone should know.

Coco Chanel’s Fashion Story Started In An Orphanage

Coco Chanel’s real name was Gabrielle Chanel. She was born in 1883, on August 19, and her future started from really humble beginnings. When Coco Chanel was 12, her mother died. Her father was not a great person so he put her and her sister in an orphanage that was run by nun. It was the nuns that taught Coco to sew. She was surrounded by black and white because of the setting of the orphanage. It was this that started to form her iconic design aesthetic.

Coco Chanel Was A Singer

Gabrielle Chanel left the orphanage when she turned 18. She got a job at a tailor’s shop but during the night she sang at a show that was similar to a cabaret. It featured really bawdy verses that were sung in bars and restaurants for the working-class. These were gigs used to get some money and also flirt with the soldiers stationed in Moulins.

Although not officially confirmed, it is said that 2 songs were often sang by her: “Qui qu’a vu Coco dans l’Trocadero?” and “Ko Ko Ri Ko”. She was so good that people always wanted to hear encores. This was marked by them by screaming “Coco”, “Coco”.

Chanel No. 5 Might Have Appeared Because Of A Lab Mistake

Chanel No. 5 is the most iconic fragrance by Coco Chanel. The story goes that during the twenties, Chanel did work with Ernest Beaux in order to create this scent. The fifth sample of Beaux was what Coco liked. The problem is that this well-known scent that became famous for the notes of rose, vanilla, sandalwood and jasmine might have very well been a mistake did in the lab.

The problem with the formula was that it included too much aldehyde in it. Even so, the fragrance became groundbreaking, with a minimalist bottle design that would eventually become the most recognized perfume in the entire world.

The Decades-Long Court Case Caused By The Perfume

In order to launch the perfume in the department stores, the Chanel name was kept on the bottle. However, Coco just got 10% of the profits made. Pierre Wertheimer (a businessman) agreed to manufacture the perfume in huge quantities, in order to receive 70% of the profit. The other 20% was taken by Theophile Bader, who brokered this deal. In order to sweeten this horrible deal, Coco Chanel started war. This actually led to the situation in which Wertheimer had one lawyer that only dealt with Coco Chanel.

Coco Chanel Is Said To Have Been A Nazi Agent

Coco Chanel died in 1971. After that, there were classified documents that appeared showing Coco dealt with Nazis during World War II. She had a huge affair with German intelligence officer Hans Gunther Von Dincklage. It was in 2011 that Hal Vaughan, journalist, said in the “Sleeping With The Enemy” book that Chanel had a lot to do with the Nazis. It was said she even got a codename, “Westminster”.

The company Chanel contested all the claims that appeared in Vaughn’s book.

Chanel – The Licensed Milliner

After Coco Chanel’s singing career ended, she became a milliner. She opened Chanel Modes, a hat shop thanks to funding from Etienner Balsan, which was a healthy heir that met Chanel as a young Moulins officer. A lucky break came at this shop when famous actress Gabrielle Dorziat started loving Chanel’s hats. This sparked a huge trend. Chanel’s hat became a true signature accessory. It was actually documented that Douglas Kirkland, a photographer that spent 3 weeks documenting Coco Chanel in 1962, never actually saw Chanel remove the hat.

The Chanel Logo Was Designed By Coco

We are used to big corporations and brands having logos designed by professional designers but Chanel’s iconic brand was actually designed by Coco Chanel. It first appeared on the Chanel No. 5 bottles. Ever since the first showing, the logo never changed.

Nobody can guarantee where the inspiration came from, but most records point towards the royal insignia of Catherine de Medici. It is also possible that the logo was a homage to Arthur Capel, who was the man that Coco considered to be the love of her life.

Who Owns The Chanel Brand?

This is a question few people know the answer to. It was during WWII that Coco used Nazi connections in order to try to put Pierre Wertheimer out of business. The Wertheimer brothers did manage to hold on to the investments made and they did regain ownership when the war was over.

Eventually, it was the Wertheimers that financed Coco Chanel’s fashion industry return in the fifties. This is a family that does not give interviews and do not talk about what happened with Coco Chanel. However, they still actually own the $8 billion Chanel brand.

Chanel Was Never Married

Chanel was well-known for her famous love affairs that included numerous dalliances, including with Picasso, a Russian Tsar grandson, the Duke of Westminster and Igor Stravinsky. Chanel was a patron of Stravinsky when he reworked The Rite Of Spring for a Paris ballet.

Women Started Wearing Shoulder Bags Because Of The Chanel Bag

During the fifties, women of status were carrying purses in their hands. However, in 1955 this all changed as Chanel created the famous 2.55 Chanel Shoulder Bag. This sleek fashion accessory included a gold chain that was the strap. This made it glamorous for a woman to wear her bag over the shoulder.

Jersey Fabric Was Made Cool By Chanel

Chanel started designing clothes in the twentieth century. At that point in time, fashion for women mostly relied on corsets. This made for fitted, uncomfortable and tight styles. The woman’s silhouette was liberated by Coco with the use of jersey, which was a fabric that was then mainly used to create underwear for men. The material was really cheap and perfect for simple dresses.

Coco Chanel And Winston Churchill Were Friends

Coco Chanel became a really powerful woman with friends all around the world. This did include politicians. Winston Churchill met Coco Chanel around the mid-twenties through the Duke of Westminster, who was her lover then. The duke was among the wealthiest men in the world and had a huge influence. She was a really close friend of Churchill, who often visited. It was actually the friendship between Winston Churchill and Coco Channel that was utilized by Nazis during WWII to create an alliance between Germany and England.

Coco Chanel Is Responsible For The Popularity Of The Little Black Dress

When it comes to fashion, the wardrobe staple everyone knows is the little black dress. You can re-wear it and reinvent it in thousands of ways. This idea was revolutionary when it was launched and it is still appreciated by almost all women.

What you might not know is that it was Vogue in 1926 that coined the term we all use today. The magazine printed the Chanel design and compared it to Ford Model T because of universality. All people in fashion agree that the little black dress is a must-have but when it appeared it was not because black was reserved for mourning.

Coco Chanel Made Tanning Fashionable

Coco Chanel was responsible for so many things in fashion, like the little black dress, wearing menswear as womenswear, perfumes and striped shirts. Basically, at one point in time, everything she did turned into fashion.

During the early twenties, it was not a good idea to spend a lot of time in the sun. This was seen as being lowbrow. When she went on a cruise in the Mediterranean Sea, Coco got too bronzed. When she arrived in Cannes, the photos taken were credited as creating a desire among women to get the same glow. Since she was really good at what she did, Chanel quickly capitalized on this and actually launched the very first women’s tanning lotions line.