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The Story of Chanel


Orphan, anti-Semitic, and envious. All these words could be used to describe the creator of Chanel, Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel.In Coco Chanel: Pearls, Perfume, and the Little Black Dress Susan Goldman Rubin introduces readers to Coco Chanel, a very well known fashion designer, whose company “Chanel” revolutionized women’s clothing.

Chanel’s life started out difficult living in a orphanage. There she was taught to hate Jews and "colored people." The things she was taught at the orphanage stayed with her for life, and she was always anti-Semitic. As a young child she liked clothes and the simple colors of her nuns clothes. When she and her sister got too old to stay at the orphanage they decided to go to Paris. There they worked at a dress shop and Coco dreamed of opening up her own shop; little did she know her dream was about to come true.

When Chanel was about 20 years old she started dating Ettienne Balsan. Balsan came from a wealthy family, and offered to help Chanel start her company. After she started dating Arthur “Boy” Chapel one of Balsans even wealthier friends. Both of them ended up being incredibly helpful in her starting her business.

She opened her first shop on Paris’s Rue Cambon in 1910. At first she only sold hats, but when she opened up shops in Deauville and Biarritz she began making clothes. Her first dress to make great success was a old jersey she fashioned into a dress. Soon there were many people asking for her dresses.

In the 1920’s Chanel’s business was thriving, during that time she the iconic perfume Chanel No. 5. Although she only received 10% of the earnings from the perfume. During the 1920’s she also made the little black dress, and started using mens clothes to make women clothing. During this time Chanel also made costumes for Ballet Russes, and the play Orphée.

Although she was doing great in the 1920’s soon came new competition: Elsa Schiaparelli a Italian designer. While Chanel was still using simple colors such as black and white Schiaparelli was using bright colors and beautiful designs with butterflies, the solar system, and stripes. This new rivalry was intense and for a while Chanel was actually living in the same building as one of Schiaparelli’s shops.

Although the book was very interesting it did become dull to read at some points. However, it was for the most part a very intriguing and eye opening view to Chanel’s life story.