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Gabrielle Bonheur Chanel (August 19, 1883 January 10, 1971) was a pioneering French couturier whose modernist philosophy, menswear-inspired fashions, and pursuit of expensive simplicity made her arguably the most important figure in the history of 20th-century fashion design. Popularly known as Coco Chanel or "Mademoiselle" by her inner circle, she was born in the small city of Saumur, France in 1883, although she asserted she was born in 1893, in Auvergne. Her mother died when Chanel was six, and shortly afterward her father abandoned her and her four siblings; the Chanel children were then placed in the care of relatives and spent some time in an orphanage. After a couple affairs with generous wealthy men - a military officer and later an English Industrialist - she was able to open a shop in Paris in 1910 selling ladies' hats, and within a year moved the business to the fashionable Rue Cambon. Her influence on haute couture was such that she was the only person in the field to be named on the List of TIME Magazine's 100 most influential people of the 20th century.
In 1922 Chanel No. 5 perfume was introduced by Chanel. Pierre Wertheimer became her partner in the perfume business in 1924. Wertheimer owned 70% of the company; Coco Chanel received 10% and her friend Bader 20%. The Wertheimers continue to control the perfume company today.
The influential Chanel suit, launched in 1923, was an elegant suit comprising a knee-length skirt and trim, boxy jacket, traditionally made of woven wool with black trim and gold buttons and worn with large costume-pearl necklaces. She also popularized the little black dress, whose blank-slate versatility allowed it to be worn for day and evening, depending on how it was accessorized. Although unassuming black dresses existed before Chanel, the ones she designed were considered the haute couture standard. In 1923, she told Harper's Bazaar that "simplicity is the keynote of all true elegance."
The nickname Coco was evidently acquired at La Rotonde, a cafe frequented by members of a French cavalry regiment and numerous of the great artists who flocked to Paris' Montparnasse section at the turn of the 20th century. It was there that Chanel, then a cabaret singer, performed a song called "Qui qu'a vu Coco," and the name stuck. (Other sources state that her audiences cried "Coco" when they wanted an encore, while further sources state that the song was called "Ko Ko Ri Ko," French for "Cock-a-doodle-do.")
up in business
by a lover,
One of her common quotes is: "Fashion is not simply a matter of clothes. Fashion is in the air, born upon the wind. One intuits it. It is in the sky and on the road."
Designer Definition (from U.S Department of Labor)