Monday, September 15, 2008

Tribute to Coco Chanel

Lifetime is set to premiere its look at the life of one of fashion's true icons: Coco Chanel. Lifetime calls Chanel "a glamorous woman who was hard to love and harder to ignore".

About Coco Chanel

"Coco Chanel" is the rags-to-riches tale charting the rise of one of the most influential fashion icons of the 20th century. From her humble childhood in a French orphanage, through her early days as a young dressmaker's assistant, to her passionate and tragic love with a dashing Englishman, and ultimately to her success as a pioneering icon, "Coco Chanel" is the story of a glamorous woman who was hard to love and harder to ignore. This epic true story stars Shirley MacLaine, Malcolm McDowell and Barbora Bobulova.

I can't wait to watch this! :)

Coco Chanel Fast Facts

Designer Coco Chanel was an uncommon woman who made her own rules when it came to life and fashion.

Basic Facts:

• Full Name: Gabrielle Bonheur "Coco" Chanel

• Born August 19, 1883

• She claimed a birth date of 1893 and a birthplace of Auvergne, France; she was actually born in 1883 in Saumur, France.

The Early Years

• Coco Chanel was the illegitimate daughter of a shopgirl and a street peddler, and would know little of the comforts of a stable family life.

• Her mother worked in the poorhouse where Chanel was born, and died when Chanel was only six, leaving her father with five children, whom he promptly abandoned to the care of relatives.

• Chanel and her brothers and sisters went to live with their two aunts in Auvergne, France, and it was here that Chanel learned much of the etiquette that would characterize her later career.

• Living with her aunts, Chanel was taught how to be a polite little girl, to sit up straight and to learn how to sew.

• She also spent her time playing sports and horseback riding, atypical activities for a girl of that time.

• At the age of 17, Chanel spent time as a ward of the state after her mother died and her father ran off. She was looked after by the nuns in the Aubazine orphanage.

• No doubt all the nuns' eyebrows were raised when the young woman left the seamstress job they had helped her get to become a cabaret singer.

• The name "Coco" comes from a stage name Chanel adopted for herself during her brief stint as a singer from 1905 to 1908.

Early Designs

• In Moulins, France, Coco Chanel met Etienne Balsan, a rich young French textile heir, and soon became his mistress. Bored with her life as a mistress, it wasn't long before she would approach Balsan with a business proposition: She wanted to open up a hat and dress shop in Paris. Balsan gave her the money for her venture.

• She soon left Balsan and became involved with Arthur "Boy" Capel, a wealthy businessman who financed the expansion of her shop. An additional two boutiques were built in Biarritz and Deauville. Capel would die in a car accident just as Chanel's star began to rise.

• Chanel couldn't afford the fashionable clothes of the period — so she rejected them and made her own, wearing sports jackets and ties that were everyday male attire to places like the racetrack, where she made important business connections.

• Her stylish, elegant designs revolutionized fashion during the 1910s, freeing women from the uncomfortable and stiff apparel worn at the end of the 19th century.

• By playing with simple designs and typically "masculine: fabrics, she offered an alternative to the more constraining women's fashions of the time.

• Her first fabrics included wool jersey, which was comfortable and easy-fitting but was not considered suitable for fashionable clothes.

Classic Style

• Chanel's fashion boutiques (one in Paris and one in Deauville) opened simultaneously in 1914. She opened a haute couture salon in Biarritz in 1916, and in 1920 moved to Paris and into her firm's present quarters on Rue Cambon.

• In addition to her work with high fashion, she also designed stage costumes for such plays as Cocteau's "Antigone" (1923) and "Oedipus Rex" (1937), and film costumes for several movies, including Renoir's "La Règle de Jeu."

• It was Chanel No. 5, Chanel's signature fragrance — considered the top-selling perfume in the world — that helped her become a millionaire.

• Chanel No. 5 was the first synthetic perfume to bear the name of a designer.

• Coco Chanel quote: "This perfume is not just beautiful and fragrant. It contains my blood and sweat and a million broken dreams."

• Pierre Wertheimer became her partner in the perfume business in 1924, and perhaps also her lover. Wertheimer owned 70 percent of the company; Coco Chanel received 10 percent, and her friend Theophile Bader 20 percent.

• Mademoiselle Chanel revolutionized women's fashion with inventions such as trousers for women, her signature cardigan jacket, the little black dress, the tweed suit, the two-tone shoe and the first shoulder bag.

• By the early '30s she had almost married one of the richest men in Europe, the Duke of Westminster; when she didn't, her explanation was, "There have been several Duchesses of Westminster. There is only one Chanel."

The War Years

• Chanel's business was interrupted by World War I and again in 1939 at the beginning of World War II, after which it did not reopen until 1953.

• In 1939, at the beginning of World War II, Coco Chanel decided to close her shops. She believed that it was not a time for fashion.

• She took up residence in the Hôtel Ritz Paris and for more than 30 years made this hotel her home, even during the Nazi occupation of Paris.

• She was criticized for having an affair with Hans Gunther von Dincklage, a German officer and spy who arranged for her to remain in the hotel.

The Later Years

• In 1955, Chanel introduced the quilted bag with the shoulder strap, a purse that shook the fashion world. It became so popular the first year, she had to decline numerous requests due to the lack of time needed for her skilled artisans to painstakingly manufacture each one.

• Chanel was portrayed by Katharine Hepburn in the 1969 stage musical "Coco." After 40 previews, the Broadway production opened on December 18, 1969, at the Mark Hellinger Theatre, where it ran for 329 performances. Hepburn was nominated for a Tony, but did not win.

• Coco Chanel died in Paris on January 10, 1971, 87 years old, in her private suite at the Hôtel Ritz, and she was buried in Switzerland. Her tombstone is carved with stone lion heads representing her birth sign, Leo.

• After her death in 1971, first her assistant designers, Gaston Berthelot and Ramon Esparza, and then her assistants Yvonne Dudel and Jean Cazaubon designed the couture collection (1975–1983).

Source: Lifetime

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