HomeFASHIONCoco Chanel's Controversial Past

Coco Chanel’s Controversial Past

Gabrielle Bonheur “Coco” Chanel was born in 1883 to Jeanne Devolle, a laundry woman at a charity hospital and Albert Chanel, a street vendor who was barely present in her life. Chanel was one of five siblings as she had three brothers and two sisters and grew up in a low-income family struggling to make ends meet. At the age of 11, Chanel’s mother passed away at 32, with her cause of death being unknown. Chanel’s father didn’t know what to do with her and her siblings and eventually sent the boys to work on a farm and sent the girls to an orphanage.

While Chanel was living at the orphanage, she learned how to sew, making her a seamstress very early. At the age of 18, she had to leave the orphanage because she was now of age and moved to a boarding house for Catholic girls. During this time, she found a job and was directly getting paid to do seamstress work and work as a cabaret girl. After giving up cabaret work, she eventually met a young French man named Étienne Balsan. Balsan was born into a wealthy family who were inventors/manufacturers of carpet and flooring textiles. Meeting Balsan, Chanel eventually became his companion as they started profoundly getting to know one other. 

Moving in together, Balsan spoiled Chanel as he gave her a life of luxury. In 1909, Chanel eventually met a new man Arthur Edward “Boy” Capel. Capel was also a very wealthy man as he was the one who put Chanel in her very first apartment in Paris and also financed her first “Chanel” store. Capel had a lot of influence on Chanel, and the brand, as the infamous Chanel No. 5 perfume bottles were shaped to look like the whiskey bottle “Boy” would always drink out of. 

After 9/10 years together, they eventually departed due to Capel finding another woman named Diana Wyndham and marrying her in 1918. A year later, Capel died in a car accident and Chanel was devastated. She later met a man who was the Duke of Westminster. The Duke of Westminster showered Chanel in riches and extravagant gifts as he bought her a mansion that would later become a museum. The affair between The Duke of Westminster and Chanel lasted about ten years. Chanel met another man named Lombardi and eventually met Lombardi’s cousin, the Prince of Whales named Edward VIII. 

In 1927 The Duke of Westminster gave Chanel some land that he already owned on the French Riviera and Chanel hired an architect and built a villa that looked similar to the orphanage she grew up in. During this period, she created the famous little black dress design which was put on the map due to her and Vogue. At the beginning of World War II, Chanel closed her shops resulting in 4,000 females losing their jobs due to the hardships of that period. After closing her shops, she moved to Switzerland, where she met another man and went into hiding for a very long time. At the age of 70, Chanel revived the brand after a 15-year gap with the help of her friend Pierre Wertheimer. In 1971, Chanel passed away at the age of 87 due to being very ill. She lived a life of luxury and enjoyed the finer things that it had to offer.

Ladarrius Besst
Ladarrius Besst
Ladarrius Besst is a Senior Mass Communications major from Jackson, Mississippi. He will be a contributor for The Campus Chronicle for the 2022-2023 school year.


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