Brand Evolution: CHANEL

What’s the first brand name that springs to mind when you think resplendent luxury, rich history and classic glamour? It’s probably Chanel.

Famous for its quilted bag, the Little Black dress and that iconic double C logo, the French fashion house, was birthed in 1883 by its legendary creator Coco Chanel, and established as the House of Chanel in 1909 when she opened the first millinery shop, called Chanel Modes, in Paris. She headed the company until her death in 1971.

Why was the French woman such a hit among the young women of the time? It’s thanks to her classic tweed suits and statement heels. Chanel was famous for revolutionizing haute couture by introducing casual suits and dresses at a time when women were suffocating in their tight corsets. The jersey clothing was ideal for the hard working, practical factory jobs that the women took up while the men were away fighting.

Soon, Hollywood actresses became fans of Chanel’s custom made hats and Coco brought out a women’s sportswear line in 1913, following the start of the first World War. The first Chanel couture house was opened in 1915 and the rest as they say, is history.

The glory of the brand is also credited in part, to the reign of Karl Lagerfeld that started in 1983. He continues to be one of the most iconic designers of recent times – his signature leather gloves and silver hair now almost a trademark representing the brand.

 Portrait de Coco Chanel by Man Ray, 1935

Portrait de Coco Chanel by Man Ray, 1935

 Marilyn Monroe In Chanel No. 5 ad

Marilyn Monroe In Chanel No. 5 ad

There are certain things that are synonymous with the aesthetic of Chanel. If you didn’t know where the quilted bag with the chain strap came from, that was Coco. The LBD also has Chanel to thank and so do all of us who love ourselves a spritz of Chanel No. 5 – famous for being the only thing Marilyn Monroe wore to sleep. Classic monochrome designs, polished, ladylike suits and tailored tweed jackets – all mainstays of the Chanel aesthetic.

So great is Coco Chanel's legacy that fans still visit her Paris apartment (although she also lived in the Paris Ritz for 30 years), which is preserved as she left it. It’s referenced for style till date. Her style continues to be an inspiration for every new generation of fashion designer – from her use of monochrome to her oversized costume, pearls and cuffs. As she herself once said: "Fashion fades, only style remains the same".

Chanel continues to be one of the most established and glamorous fashion houses in the world, the pioneers of gorgeous, covetable couture – just ask the It girls – Kiera Knightley, Alexa Chung, Kristen Stewart or Cara Delevingne.