COCO CHANEL (Chanel Gabrielle)

(1883 – 1971; France) You can tell a lot about this designer, both for her style and for her innovations, both for her private life very complicated, which also influenced her work. Anyway here we analyze only the stylistic side.

In 1909, she open her first hat workshop thanks to her lover funding and from 1910 opens many new stores. She replaces completely the typical belle époque clothing and launch many new proposals, that now we find normal, but at that time were originalities: from mid-calf pleated skirts, to ease the movements, to loose-sailor shirts, from collarless jacket to loose-leg pants. They were simple garments that she also wore, in fact her purpose was to create functional and comfortable clothing (also for evening dresses she preferred terse lines matched with comfortable fabrics). Another quality is the feminization of male garments, such as the checked cardigans, the jacket and the trousers, while regarding the colors, she loved the gray, beige and black, generally colors not used for women’s clothing.

In the twenties there is the turning point, with her jersey woman’s suits (knitted fabric very flexible) with simple lines, soft fabrics and high quality tailoring, but elaborated with different patterns; twinset worn with foulards and golden chains or pearl necklaces strictly fake with synthetic fake jewelry mixed with genuine stones. About Jersey, Chanel was able to get the exclusive of this fabric that was made by machine and anyway it has been one of the most important newness of Haute Couture: till then usually it was used only for men’s underwear and generally it was considered not very fine.

Apparently Coco used the same patterns, but in fact they were different, the details and the designs of the fabrics changed, however, a typical matching was: tweed skirt (wool fabric), pullover and pearl necklace.

In 1926 she launched a dress that will always remain symbol of the classic elegance, the “little black” (le petit noir): a revival of the black dress with white collar and cuffs (to recall shop assistants and employee) and the ’30 is the year of the quilted bag with chain shoulder: it will be imitated by many accessories manufacturers.

With the II World War, the designer is forced to stop and will resume only in 1954 with the reopening of her fashion house. There will be other news: the edged suit with braid and perfect cut; medium-heeled

shoes, closed behind only by a strap; handbags with chain handle, fur coats (to make them warmer), the very high and narrow cut armhole (always for more comfort) and a lot of fake jewelry mixed with real jewelry.

After her death the Fashion House passes to her two assistants and her two collaborators (Gaston Berthelot, Ramon Esparza, Yvonne Dudel and Jean Cazaubon). They launch a prêt-à-porter line.

From ’83 Karl Lagerfeld is the new designer, who can revise Chanel in a current version without never distance the style from the original one.