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How a provincial raised by nuns became the leading fashion designer of the century

Date: May 19, 2024 Time: 14:01:50

Chanel was known for her causticity and sharp judgment.


The woman, whose name has become synonymous with French elegance and impeccable Parisian style, was born provincial, if not redneck. Her father was a traveling merchant who seduced a young woman. Realizing that she was pregnant, she ran to Hell, trying to cover her tracks. Bad sweep: she once found a young woman sobbing for a long time at the door of her house. It didn’t work, I had to connect my life with it. The young woman gave birth to a girl, who was named Julia. She soon became pregnant again and gave birth to another girl, who was named Gabrielle. She then gave birth to several more children and died at the age of 33.

We are interested in Gabriel. The frivolous father did not take care of her and gave herself up to the upbringing of the nuns. She spent her entire childhood studying God’s law, raised in extreme austerity and simplicity. It is interesting that then it was her rigor and simplicity that became the basis of her aesthetics. The nuns taught her to sew, at first she did not succeed, but in the end she mastered this art. And in a 12th century stained glass window in a church, I saw a strange monogram: two intertwined letters C. Over time, it became one of the most famous logos in the world. She herself became first a seamstress, then a fashion designer, and then a legend – not a single person in history has had such an influence on the way women dress today.

However, Chanel is not just clothes, it is one of the most famous perfume brands on the planet. The names of the spirits that were invented during his life and after his death are the milestones of his destiny. And the easiest way to talk about her life is like this, through perfumery.

The woman whose name has become synonymous with French elegance and impeccable Parisian style was born provincial, if not redneck.


Gabrielle (notes of citrus, tuberose, ylang-ylang, musk) is her real name.

Coco Mademoiselle (citrus notes, Turkish rose, jasmine, ylang ylang, patchouli, white musk, vanilla, vetiver). Coco is a stupid pseudonym that Mademoiselle came up with when she left the walls of the monastery and began to earn a living, including singing. She sang in a tavern a song called “Who saw Coco at the Trocadero?” – about the suffering of a young woman whose dog ran away and got lost. It was a success. She was called over and over again for an encore, chanting the name of the song: “Coco! Coconut! So she stayed. She wasn’t excited about it, but she had nowhere to go.

Chanel No. 5 (mainly aldehydes). An absolute masterpiece, and more than a hundred years after its creation, this is the most famous perfume in the world. Gabrielle-Coco walked towards them for a long time. To begin with, she needed to become a pioneer in France, and, oddly enough, this happened easily, as if by itself. She created simple, comfortable clothing, and during World War I, when France was in danger for some time, this was very well received. It so happened that the war helped her. Raised in a monastery, Gabrielle abandoned all trinkets, surcoats, laces and other jewellery: she created garments that were strict and elegant, she considered black and white to be the ideal color combination (and ideally only black; later it became would come up with a “little black dress”). She herself wore pants when she wanted (it was considered wildly scandalous), because it was convenient and easy. She promoted ease and free silhouettes (“I gave freedom back to the female body”). And just as simple and elegant was the bottle of Chanel No. 5, her first perfume. A strict rectangle with some kind of mathematical name (before that, the spirits called it magnificently: “Persian lilac”, “Pompeii”, “Golden Dream”). Far from flowers like heliotropes and Persian lilacs, the fragrance itself was dominated by aldehydes, powerful, strange-smelling chemicals that taste like 1921. It was a revolution akin to “Black Square” in painting.

Chanel is not just clothes, it is one of the most famous perfume brands on the planet.

Photo: Shutterstock

Cuir de Russie (“Russian leather”, as yuft is called in the West, this is one of the main notes of the fragrance, along with birch, by the way). Chanel’s relationship with Russia and the Russians is a topic for a separate study. The composer Igor Stravinsky was madly in love with her (unfortunately, as a man, he did not turn her on at all, and this angered him). Grand Duke Dmitry Pavlovich was in love with her; here, on the contrary, her passion was divided and satisfied. Let’s not forget Sergei Diaghilev, with whom she had a close friendship. And, of course, Ernest Bo, the perfumer who invented Chanel No. 5 for her. He was French, but he was born in Moscow, worked for a Moscow perfume factory, and then, during World War I, ended up in Arkhangelsk. and she breathed in abundantly “the strongest of the cold that the lakes and rivers give off under the midnight sun.” She tried to convey this coldness in the great fragrance of her.

Chico (lavender, citrus, geranium, orange blossom, rose, musk, heliotrope, sandalwood). Boy, “the boy”, was the simple nickname of the Englishman Arthur Edward Capel, who gave Chanel great love and great tragedy in her life. He was, it seemed, the only man she truly loved. Their romance lasted nine years and would have lasted a long time if Boy had not died in a car accident: a tire blew out on the car, it flew into a ditch, the driver escaped with bruises, and Capel had a cracked skull. From the pain, Chanel could not recover for several months (if not several years). The legendary shape of the Chanel No. 5 bottle is believed to be inspired by two things associated with Boy: bottles of Charvet eau de toilette, which he carried with him in a vanity case, and a decanter, into which he poured bottles of whiskey.

Chanel No. 19 (galbanum, hyacinth, bergamot, neroli, iris, rose, oakmoss, leather, vetiver). The last fragrance that she personally approved and put into production. This happened as early as 1970, when 86-year-old Gabrielle Chanel was considered a living fashion icon. Gone was a huge and eventful life. There were dark episodes in this life (he collaborated with the Nazis during World War II -specifically with Walter Schellenberg himself, whom Tabakov played in Seventeen Moments- and also tried to squeeze the perfume business out of business partners who were Jewish ) . She seems like she even worked for Schellenberg as a spy. After the Allied victory, she miraculously emerged announcing that all American soldiers would receive a free bottle of Chanel No. 5 for her girlfriends (Yankees lined up at her boutiques). And then, she was friends with Winston Churchill; in her situation, she turned out to be invaluable. Her reputation still suffered enormous damage, from which she recovered only a few years later: she was forgiven, turning a blind eye to an unpleasant point in her biography. And for more than twenty years, until her death in 1971, she was the queen of fashion, an unquestioned authority. That she remains even now, when more than half a century has passed since the day she died.

Celebrating 140 years since the birth of the leading fashion designer of the 20th century



Chanel was known for her causticity and sharp judgment. There are even collections of sayings from her that are attributed to her (just like we have collections of Ranevskaya aphorisms). These are just some examples.

• I do not care what you think about me. I do not think about you at all.

• I only drink champagne twice: when I’m in love and when I’m not in love.

• Simplicity is the key to elegance. Elegance is the rejection of excesses.

• (About Christian Dior, famous gay fashion designer). I wonder how he can dress a woman if he has never undressed her in her life.

• Control yourself when it hurts, and don’t make a scene when it hurts – that’s what the ideal woman is.

• Dress badly and the dress will be remembered. Dress impeccably and the woman will be remembered.

• Some believe that the antonym of the word “luxury” – “poverty”. This is bad. In fact, the antonym is “vulgarity.”

• Always dress like you are about to face your worst enemy today.

• I don’t do fashion. i am fashion

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Puck Henry
Puck Henry
Puck Henry is an editor for ePrimefeed covering all types of news.

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