(Gabrielle Bonheur Chanel)
August 19, 1883 - January 10, 1971
Designer Coco Chanel gave the world the little black dress, Chanel No. 5 perfume, and the revolutionary notion that style could be both classic and casual. Coco -- a nickname meaning "little pet" -- was raised in an orphanage, where she learned to sew. In 1910 she began selling hats from her own shop, and by the 1920s her fashion business had expanded to include a couture house, her own textile factory and a line of perfumes that included the famous No. 5. Chanel took women's fashions away from stiff corsets and introduced casual, practical clothing that borrowed fabrics and attitudes from men's fashion. She was the first to introduce black as a fashion color; her versatile, semi-formal "little black dress" became a Chanel trademark and an enduring fashion standard. During and after World War II Chanel's popularity waned, and her love affair with a Nazi officer sent her into a form of self-imposed exile in Switzerland for nearly 15 years. She made a comeback in 1954 and her designs became some of the most popular in the western world, especially in the United States. After her death the Coco Chanel Company was directed by designer Karl Lagerfeld.
- Religious views: the Congregation of the Sacred Heart of Mary
- Home town: Saumur, France
- Parents: Albert Chanel, Jeanne Devolle
- Siblings: Julia Chanel, Antoinette Chanel, Alphonse Chanel, Augustin Chanel, Lucien Chanel
- Chanel briefly served as a nurse in World War II.
- She adopted the name Coco during a brief career as a cafe and concert singer 1905-1908
- Pierre Wertheimer became her partner in the perfume business in 1924; The Wertheimers continue to control the perfume company today.