The most courageous act is still to think for yourself. Aloud.- Coco Chanel

Today we celebrate what would have been the 130th birthday of fashion mogul Coco Chanel. Though now we associate her name with wealth and glamour, that was not always the case for Mademoiselle Chanel. The now-legendary fashion designer Coco Chanel was once a poor, orphaned child in France. As she grew older and found success, she shared some insightful life lessons with the world.

Only you have the power to shape your future.

Chanel was born into a very poor family in 1883. Unfortunately, her mother died when Chanel was only twelve years old. As a result, her father sent Chanel and her two sisters to be raised in a convent. After she was unsuccessful in finding work in the theater, the young woman started dancing and singing at cabaret shows. To make money on the side, she learned how to sew at a convent and got jobs working at variety shows.

Chanel met and became the mistress of Étienne Balsan, a young French man who was formerly in the cavalry and textile heir, around 1907. After gaining entry into the uppermost levels of French society, she eventually began playing around with the design. In 1910, Chanel became a licensed milliner and opened her boutique named Chanel Modes with the help of some financial assistance from friends. Her first store was successful, so she decided to open another one in Biarritz. By 1919, Chanel had formally become a couturiere and set up her primary store on Rue Cambon. From there, her business only prospered.

Don’t be afraid to shake things up and challenge the status quo.

Women were extremely restricted by fashion in the past. For example, corsets, long skirts, and buttoned-up blouses prevented them from moving freely. Prior to Chanel, women only wore dresses and skirts. But Chanel changed that by creating pants for women. 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.”

The strength of a brand should never be underestimated.

If someone were to ask who Chanel was, you might not be able to tell them much. But if they showed you her iconic logo, chances are high that you would recognize it. According to contributor Simon Graj, she kept up with her customer base and studied their desires intently. Not only did she promote her brand, but also spoke on its behalf and taught the general public an entirely new language when discussing fashion. Graj wrote, “While Chanel let what she learned to 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.”

Establish a prosperous and influential empire.

PNC Financial reports that 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.”

There’s always time for a second chance.

You’re never too old to make a comeback, just ask Coco Chanel. After staying out of the public eye for 15 years, the fashion icon returned to her industry in 1954. European buyers did not purchase many of her items, but Americans adored her style. Even after she passed away at 71, people still considered her one of the most influential designers ever.

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