The most courageous act is still to think for yourself. Aloud.- Coco Chanel
Today marks what would be the 130th birthday of fashion legend Coco Chanel. Though we associate Coco Chanel with everything glamorous, there was a time when her life was anything but that. She went from a poor, orphaned child in France to the head of one of the most successful fashion empires in the world. Here are some life lessons you can take from the incredible Coco Chanel.
You, and you alone, determine your future
Chanel was born to a very poor family in 1883. After her mother died when she was 12, her father sent her and her two sisters to a convent to be raised. As a young woman she tried to have a career in the theater, which resulted in dancing and singing in cabaret shows. She sewed on the side, after learning at the convent, and continued to work jobs in variety shows.
Around the summer of 1907, Chanel became the mistress of the young French ex-cavalry officer and the wealthy textile heir Étienne Balsan. She began socializing in the upper eschalons of French society and eventually started experimenting with design. Chanel became a licensed milliner (hat maker) in 1910 and opened a boutique at 21 rue Cambon (with some financing help from her friends) named Chanel Modes. The store was a hit and she went on to open another shop in Biarritz. By 1919, Chanel was registered as a couturiere and established her flagship store at 31 rue Cambon. Her empire only grew from there.
Challenge the status quo
Women were oppressed when it came to fashion. Corsets, long skirts, buttoned up blouses, etc., They could barely move. But Chanel changed all that. She gave women pants. She let their legs move! “I gave women a sense of freedom,” she once said. “I gave them back their bodies: bodies that were drenched in sweat, due to fashion’s finery, lace, corsets, underclothes, padding.”
Branding is power
Who would have thought two C’s would ever mean so much? But Chanel’s branding was more than just her iconic logo. According to Forbes.com contributor Simon Graj, she was very in touch with her customer base and studying what they wanted. She also acted as a spokesperson for her brand and introduced the culture to a whole new vocabulary for talking about fashion. Graj wrote, “While Chanel let what she learned inform her judgments and responses, she maintained a powerful mystique about her recipes for style. Chanel articulated the essence with transparency, but she retained strict custody of the ‘secret sauce’ that made her unique.”
Build an empire
According to PNC Financial, with her launch of the iconic Chanel No.5, “she created the financial and marketing underpinnings of every major fashion house (and most luxury-goods firms) today. Her company earned the bulk of its sales from accessibly priced, high-margin items such as perfume and accessories, while producing high fashion collections that drove demand and elevated the status of the brand as a whole.”
It’s never too late to make a comeback
It’s never too late to make a comeback if you have the right stuff. It was in 1954 after 15 years of staying under the radar that Coco Chanel reentered the fashion world. Though she was not welcomed back in Europe in terms of sales, American consumers could not get enough of her designs. When she died at 71, she was deemed one of the best designer of her time.
What do you think of Coco Chanel’s life? Tell us in the comments!
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