Known for kickstarting the slim, straight, boyish figures that became characteristic of 1920s women’s fashion, and today their aesthetic commitment to classic elegance and feminine simplicity, its impact on 20th and 21st century visual culture is insurmountable. From Coco Chanel to Karl Lagerfeld to the future, the company has a rich history and artistic legacy spanning over a century; it is no wonder that today its allure continues to inspire awe in anyone from casual admirer to serious collectors across the world.
Haute couture is defined as expensive, fashionable clothes produced by leading fashion houses. But really it is much more involved than just that. Haute couture is constructed entirely by hand, sewn stitch by stitch without aid from sewing machines, custom fitted to the wearer’s measurements. Due to the extremely high level of quality materials used to produce the garments and the staggeringly time consuming efforts and skillfulness it takes to create these items, expense is considered irrelevant and haute couture has no price tag. Unlike ready-to-wear or fast fashion, it possesses intrinsically artistic value and is meant to be timeless.
In 1909, Gabrielle, or “Coco” Chanel opened a hat making shop at 160 Boulevard Malesherbes, Paris, France. Though the shop was located on the ground level of her wealthy mister, she was able to earn a living for herself designing and making hats for the fashionable mistresses of the social elite. The next year, her new mister financed the opening of her first independent hat shop at 21 Rue Cambon. By the time of World War I, she had also opened up a nearby shop that sold women's clothing. Her success was fast paced, as her designs earned popularity amongst the most fashionable members of high society and recognized positively by reputable publications across the world such as Harper’s Bazaar.
"Chanel undoubtedly played a major role in this trend, encouraging mobility, practicality, and simplicity in clothing while still remaining feminine and elegant. "
The 1920’s saws the advent of a much of what Chanel continues to be known for today, including beaded flapper dresses, the Chanel suit, and Chanel No.5 perfume. Silhouettes were box-like and comparatively masculine to the belle epoque hourglass figures of the previous decade. Fashion overall during this period saw a shift from the traditional to the radical, with women now going without corsets, showing their legs, and wearing less layers, reflecting the sexual and social liberation of post-war women. Chanel undoubtedly played a major role in this trend, encouraging mobility, practicality, and simplicity in clothing while still remaining feminine and elegant.
Today Chanel remains to be internationally recognized as a powerhouse of fashion and haute couture, continuing to lead the world in the timeless elegance and class of its products. Women and men alike across the world covet its products as widely regarded items of luxury and art. With its promise of quality, aesthetically brilliant designs, and prestigious history, it is no wonder that the company will likely continue to flourish and impress for generations to come.