August 19, 1883 - January 10, 1971
Fashion designer Coco Chanel, was originally named Gabrielle Bonheur Chanel on August 19, 1883. She was born in Saumur, France. After her mother’s death, Chanel was put in an orphanage by her father, who was a peddler. In the orphanage, she was raised by nuns. The nuns taught her how to sew, which would help Chanel develop her career as a fashion designer.
She opened her first shop, "Paris’s Rue Cambon" in 1910. She started out selling hats and later added stores (in various locations throughout Paris) where she began making clothes. In the 1920s, Chanel expanded her business greatly by launching her first perfume, Chanel No. 5. In 1925, she introduced the Chanel suit with collarless jacket and well-fitted skirt. Another 1920's design was Chanel’s little black dress.
The depression of the 1930's contributed to the downfall of Chanel's business, but it was World War II that caused her to completely close her business. She fired all of her workers and completely shut down her shops. During the German occupation of France, Chanel got involved with a German military officer, Hans Gunther von Dincklage. She was questioned, yet never officially charged, as a collaborator and her social image suffered.
After she was accused of betraying her country, Chanel left Paris and spent some years in Switzerland. She made a comeback in her 70s, and customers still loved her. Coco Chanel died on January 10, 1971, at her apartment in the Hotel Ritz. A little more than a decade after her death, designer Karl Lagerfeld took over her company to continue the Chanel "legacy". Today her company continues to do extremely well and has millions of sales every year.