Chanel Through The Decades


Coco Chanel began her design career in 1908 at the age of 25, working for a milliner at the Paris apartment of Etienne Balsan, a French socialite and heir. He was to be one of Chanel’s lovers. In 1909, the young designer met Arthur ‘Boy’ Capel, who became her lover and financier as well as a heavy influence on her designers, especially his blazers. This has become a key look that continues to be used in the Chanel collections today.


In 1910, Chanel opened her first milliner boutique, ‘Chanel Modes’ at 21 rue, Cambon, Paris. This address is now iconic within the fashion industry and has been used as a detail within the SS11 Chanel sunglasses collection. The second boutique was opened in 1914 on the same street, but the outbreak of WWI cut short the Chanel boutique expansion. In 1919, the ‘Chanel Couture House’ is launched, again, on the same street. Chanel deemed this year to be the one where she ‘woke up famous’ but also the year that she lost her lover and financier, Arthur ‘Boy’ Capel, who died unexpectedly.


Expanding her fashion empire, Chanel launches her debut fragrance; the timelessly iconic ‘No.5’ perfume in 1921. At the end of the decade in 1927, Chanel travels across the pond to open Chanel’s London boutique.


Chanel premieres an exhibition of the jewellery line in 1932, dedicated to the diamond. 1939 saw the break out of WWII and the retirement of Chanel followed with the end of her clothing line. Just perfume and jewellery continued to be sold at her boutiques.


Whilst retired, Chanel relocates to the Hotel Ritz, Paris with her new beau, Nazi officer Hans Gunther von Dincklag, also known as ‘Spatz’.


Chanel continues to reside at the Hotel Ritz, enjoying the life that retirement brings, but in 1954, Chanel re opens her boutique. Fellow designer Cecil Beaton said of her return to design ‘With each season she watched, like Nature’s seed, her past creativity flowing anew, barely hidden behind the vague alterations of less talented designers. At last she decided she must again descend into the battle and flung open the doors on to her new collection!’


The era of the 60s saw the ‘Beatnik’ trend become rife. Chanel added her unmistakable touch to the trend with monochrome drop waisted shift dresses, embellished with pearls.


Gabrielle ‘Coco’ Chanel passed away on January 10, 1971 at the age of 87. She was still designing and working at the time of her death. Leadership of the company was handed down to Yvonne Dudel, Jean Cazaubon and Philippe Guibourge. In 1974, the House of Chanel launched ‘Cristalle eau de toilette’, which was created when Coco Chanel was alive. 1978 saw the launch of the first non-couture, prêt-à-porter line.


Karl Lagerfeld is appointed head designer at Chanel in 1983 and due to his success, is appointed artistic director for Chanel Couture as well as the prêt a porter and accessories lines.


Lagerfeld continues to push Chanel into another decade with resounding success. Teaming the classic Chanel box jacket with a denim mini, Chanel captured a younger market and yet another global trend. 1999 was the beginning of the hugely iconic sunglasses collection that proved to be a hit with the A-listers.


In order to please the younger followers, Chanel introduced Coco Mademoiselle in 2003. Nicole Kidman was spokesperson for the ‘Chanel No 5’ fragrance and British actress, Kiera Knightley for the new scent, ‘Coco Mademoiselle’.


Chanel eyewear continues to be spotted on a plethora of young A-listers in 2011. Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, Lindsay Lohan, Whitney Port and Emma Watson, all plump for the collection’s high-end and unmistakably chic detailing that includes delicate pearls, monochrome branding and intricate heritage inspired arm embellishment.

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