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Brand History & Legacy

The History & Legacy of Chanel

Rejecting the norms of her days, Gabrielle ‘Coco’ Chanel transformed femininity in the form of fashion by liberating us from the shackles of restrictive fashion at the time.

Coco is credited with being responsible for numerous revolutions and, to this day, Chanel continues to honour its founder by pushing the limits of fashion as we know it. Keep reading for some interesting facts about the history and legacy of Chanel. 


Coco Chanel’s Early Life

Chanel is regarded as the epitome of luxury fashion, despite the fact that she was raised by nuns in an orphanage. Here, she was taught how to sew at the young age of 12; the very skill that would result in her life’s work and legacy.

1910: The Start of An Empire

Chanel is often associated with clothing and perfume more than anything else, even though the brand originated as a millinery in 1910. At the time, Chanel operated under the brand ‘Chanel Mode’, the hat boutique started at 21 rue Cambon in central Paris.  

The brand's reputation is owed to its high-fashion designs as well as famous actresses who regularly shopped at Chanel. 


1912-1918: Expanding The Chanel Empire

With this newfound exposure, Coco expanded her empire very quickly. So, in 1912, she opened her first fashion boutique in Deauville. At the time, Deauville was the ‘it’ place, where only the most prominent in society were seen. 

In 1913, Coco started a sportswear line made of jersey–a material that was often found in men’s underwear. Her designs challenged traditional womenswear pieces, many say that they revolutionized women’s relationships with their bodies in the conservative era. 

Finally, in 1918, Coco purchased a building at 31 rue Cambon and started her first Couture House. This building was also known as a boutique, salon and workshop. Today, the layout still remains as initially used. 

Chanel N°5

The Chanel N°5 perfume is one of the brand’s most notable products. It was first launched in 1921 (yes, over a century ago), as a partnership with a famous perfumer, Ernest Beaux. The N°5 is known as a "women’s perfume which smells like a woman", coupled with its iconic composition, name and presentation. This timeless scent is still known as the ultimate symbol of femininity today. 


The Chanel Look

A black suit might not be revolutionary, but in 1925, it certainly was. The iconic collarless jacket and a well-fitted skirt were a move away from restrictive and uncomfortable corsets, while suits were seen as masculine and strictly reserved for men. 

Additionally, black was also taboo for everyday wear. Yes, in today’s time, black clothes are a staple, but in the early 1900s, the colour was only socially acceptable for funerals and mourning periods. Coco designed the ‘little black dress’, a look that became a symbol of freedom and success at the time, and is still seen as a classy and timeless look. 

Chanel Hits Hollywood

By the 1930’s, Chanel was seen as the height of French fashion and the rest of the world wanted a piece of it too. 

Upon the request of American producer Samuel Goldwyn, Gabrielle Chanel left for Hollywood in 1931 to dress the biggest stars of the time. She designed costumes for the following films: Tonight or Never (1931) and The Greeks Had a Word for Them (1932). 

1954-1957: More Iconic Creations

In 1955, at the age of 71, Coco staged the brand’s grand re-opening with a fashion show. As the fashion industry welcomed her back, she inspired a second fashion revolution. 

A year later, the iconic 2.55 bag was brought to life. Named after its date of creation (2 for the month and 55 for the year), the shoulder strap bag revolutionised women’s handbags by allowing women to remain handsfree rather than occupying it by clutching onto their purses. What’s more, the brand came out with its first men’s fragrance in the same year. 


When thinking of Chanel, the iconic tweed suit comes to mind. On her fashion streak, Coco Chanel debuted the emblematic trimmed tweed suit in her 1956 collection, and it’s still seen as a staple today. 

In 1957, she created the two-toned pumps. The beige leather gives the illusion of elongated legs, while the black shoe tip makes the foot look smaller. Shoemaker Massaro added the elastic strap around the heel for comfort. As always, Coco prioritised timelessness and functionality over tacky extravagance. 

The Chanel Era

In the 60’s, Chanel became a household name. The most prominent women of the time strutted in Chanel proudly. Some of these women include Jackie Kennedy, Marilyn Monroe, Romy Schneider, Dorothea McGowan, and more. 

The Death of An Icon

Gabrielle ‘Coco’ Chanel passed away at the Ritz Hotel on the 10th of January 1971. Despite her passing, the legacy of Coco Chanel continued. 

Not only was her posthumous collection a huge success, but Chanel is still relevant in contemporary fashion, adored by millions of people around the world. 

1983: Karl Lagerfeld's Reign

Karl Lagerfeld became the Artistic Director of the Chanel brand. Many of Chanel’s well-known pieces today are owed to Lagerfeld, including the famous ‘CC’ monogram, the revival of the Cruise collections, Haute Couture as well as the introduction of the Métiers d'art (art professions), pre-collections, and ready-to-wear collections as we know it today. 

The Face of Chanel

In 1983, Ines de La Fressange became the first model to sign an exclusive contract with Chanel. She became Lagerfeld’s muse for over a decade, many say it’s because of her resemblance to Coco Chanel. Ines also featured in Karl Lagerfeld’s first campaign for Chanel, photographed himself. 

2019: The Death of The Lagerfeld Legend

On the 19th of February 2019, Karl Lagerfeld passed away. It is said that he had been working tirelessly, up until his death. Virginie Viard, formerly known as Lagerfeld’s right-hand person, was appointed as the new artistic director of Chanel. She officially started a new chapter for Chanel by paying tribute to both Coco and Karl Lagerfeld.

Chanel Today

One of the reasons why Viard is perfect for the role is because she worked alongside Karl Lagerfeld at Chanel for 30 years. Thus far, Viard has combined soft femininity juxtaposed with rock-and-roll style all while honouring Coco Chanel’s core values, beliefs and vision at the heart of the company. 

Where To Buy Chanel

Whether you're looking for Chanel staples like the iconic tweed suit, the 2.55 handbag, two-toned pumps or any other trendy Chanel items, you’ll find them at Luxity. Shop online or visit us in-store for all your pre-owned designer desires.