Coco Chanel (1883 – 1971) was a French couturier whose modernist philosophies, menswear-inspired fashions and pursuit of luxurious simplicity made her the most important fashion figure of the 20th-century.
Among many other accomplishments, she is credited with the inception of haute couture. In an industrially expanding world where women dealt with inequality on a day-to-day basis, she was a leader that other women looked up to. She opened her first millinery shop in 1912 and throughout the 1920s Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel rose to become one of the premier fashion designers in Paris.
She replaced the rigid corset with the casual elegance of simple suits and dresses, women’s trousers, costume jewelry and, of course, her perfume. The influential Chanel suit, comprised of a knee-length skirt and trim, boxy jacket, traditionally made of woven wool with black trim and gold buttons, was launched in 1923 and the little black dress – a staple of every modern woman’s wardrobe – in 1926.
Even today, the Chanel fashions from almost a century ago remain timeless. After Coco’s death, Karl Lagerfeld took the helm at the House of Chanel where he still mixes the traditional timelessness that Chanel is infamous for with his more modern styles.