Coco (or Gabrielle as she was christened) Chanel spent much of her childhood in an orphanage where she was taught to sew. When she grew up, using borrowed money she was able to launch her own business designing and making hats. Her exceptional talent for simple quality provided a modern alternative to the elaborate hats of the period.
Her first shop in Rue Gambon, Paris, opened in 1910 as a millinery shop. By the beginning of the first World War she had expanded into clothing selling what was to become her signature style such as the jersey “slip over” that catered to the modern woman freeing her from the constraints of elaborate gowns and corsets.
During the 1920’s Chanel began to produce costume jewellery to complement her fashion designs. Rather than pretend the costume jewellery was real she emphasised its fakeness by use of size, color and shear abundance.
Many of these designs from the 1920’s have become Chanel classics – instantly recognisable as her clothes were, and they continue to inspire Chanel collections to this day.