Coco Chanel

MaKayla Hughes


French designer Gabrielle Bonheur Chanel  better known as Coco Chanel, was born August 19, 1883 in Saumur France to Eugenie Jeanne Devolle who worked as a laundrywoman and Albert Chanel, a peddler.

When Coco was 12 years old, her mother died at the age of 31 from bronchitis. After her mother's death, Coco was then put in an orphanage by her father who could no longer take care for her and her other siblings. While in the orphanage, she was raised by nuns who then taught her how to sew.  At age 18, Coco was too old to continue her stay at the orphanage, so she went to live in a boarding house set aside for Catholic girls.

Having learned how to sew during her years at the orphanage, Coco was able to find employment as a seamstress, which lead to her career as a designer. But before she opened her first clothing shop in 1910, she had a brief career as a signer which is where her famous name "Coco" came from.  

Personal Life

At age 23, although she was still at the boarding house, she met Etienne Balsan who was an ex-cavalry officer who was also a wealthy textile heir and owner of Chateau Royallieu. Coco lived with him in his magnificently beautiful area known for equestrian paths and hunting grounds.  In 1908, Coco began having an affair with Captain Arthur Edward Capel, one of Balsan's friend who was a wealthy Englishman who financed Coco's first shop. It is said that Arthur deeply influenced Coco's fashion style, and even the bottle design of the famous fragrance Chanel No. 5. However, he traveled often for business reasons and spent a lot of time with other women during these business trips.

Around the 1920's, Coco stated working on costume designs for the Ballet Russes Dance Company, where she then met Igor Stravinsky. During this time, Igor was considered one of the most influential composures of the 20th century.

Coco allegedly had affairs with other men, including poet Pierre Reverdy. Her involvement with Reverdy ended around 1926 but they remained friends from 40 years.

Perhaps the most famous affair in Coco's life was with the Duke of Westminister. The Duke, Hugh Richard Arthur Grosvenor maintained an affair with Coco for 10 years and constantly presented her with gifts.


Coco Chanel with several of her modeling friends.


At the age of 87, Coco stuck to her normal routine of preparing the spring catalog where she had begun to feel unlike herself. She had gone for a long drive on January 9 and feeling ill went to bed early. She died the next day on January 10, 1971 at Hotel Ritz where she had lived for more than 30 years. Coco's death came peacefully but the cause of death was not determined.

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