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Luxury Fashion Influencers: Coco Chanel

Written by Caro Clark


Posted on March 16 2024

Why Vintage Chanel will never go out of style

What began with a single hat shop in early 1900’s Paris has grown into a global empire of luxury handbags, jewelry, perfume, and clothing, and for all the right reasons. With her little Parisian hat shop, Coco Chanel was already garnering attention by designing minimalistic hats with a sophisticated flair. It didn’t take long for Chanel to begin designing clothing that pushed the boundaries of fashion and modesty, which began with her well-known tweed two-piece suit. 

Chanel shocked her contemporaries when she released a menswear inspired but ultra-feminine two-piece suit in tweed. The suit was shocking for several reasons. First, it incorporated elements of menswear, and this was not commonplace for women’s clothing, especially when most women had not yet entered the workforce. Her use of tweed was surprising because that was viewed as a pauper’s textile. After she used it in her suits, the material became associated with sophistication and femininity rather than poverty. Lastly, her collection was so much different than what women were wearing at the time. Restrictive corsets and long, cumbersome skirts were still what the majority of women wore, so the release of the Chanel suit literally liberated women’s bodies. More importantly, it allowed them to enter the post-war workforce feeling confident and empowered. Her two-piece suits demonstrate Chanel’s early and keen ability to create feminine clothing with elements of menswear.

In 1926, Chanel released what is still a must-have in any woman’s wardrobe but was was completely revolutionary in the 1920s—the little black dress. During this time, black was mostly worn at formal and semi-formal occasions and wasn’t considered appropriate daywear. What made Chanel’s dress so innovative was its menswear inspired silhouette, which made it suitable to wear during the day and with more formal accessorizing at cocktail parties. It was dubbed the “Ford of Fashion” by American Vogue for its ability to transition with ease from a day dress to a cocktail dress. She continued to evolve the little black dress throughout each collection, and eventually that look trickled down into all of our closets.

All the aspects of the Chanel brand that we see today—the interlocking double C logo, the clean lines, and the black and white color palette—were developed and established in the 1920s. Even her iconic fragrance, Chanel No. 5 was released in 1921. She was a woman who knew her aesthetic, knew her brand, and established it from the beginning. However, not all of her iconic pieces were created in the company’s infancy. It wasn’t until 1955 that the world would get the timeless and still widely coveted quilted Chanel bag. The first iterations of the handbag look very similar to the ones sold today except they lacked the brand’s signature interlocking C’s. If there’s one thing that the history of Chanel teaches us, it’s that following your vision and creative instinct pays off more than chasing the latest trends. Her designs are classic, timeless, and will never go out of style or appear dated because she remained true to her unique creative style.

After her death in 1971, the House of Chanel entered into a turbulent period where it was trying to walk the line between staying true to their founder’s vision and keeping up with contemporary fashion trends. It wasn’t until Karl Lagerfeld took over as creative director in 1983 that the brand found regained its footing. He balanced the current fashion trends while staying true to Coco Chanel’s vision. He revamped the brand’s collection of handbags, adding the interlocking C’s and threading leather through the gold chain straps. While the brand Chanel has always remained true to their roots and history, Chanel as we know it today would not exist without the leadership and creative genius of Lagerfeld. He managed to keep the brand current, relevant without deviating from Coco Chanel’s original and timeless designs. That’s another lesson to take from the history of the House of Chanel—you don’t need to reinvent yourself to stay relevant. It’s worth it to stay true to yourself while also adapting to changing circumstances.