Chanel: 10 Things You Didn′t Know

Coco Chanel once said, “In order to be irreplaceable one must always be different”. Well, tomorrow marks the 134th anniversary of the revolutionary’s birth and she definitely has not been replaced. Here are 10 things you might not know about the legendary Coco Chanel.

1. Daughter of a peasant and a street vendor, Coco was born in a poorhouse and when her mother died she was sent to an orphanage in a convent until she turned 18. It was there that Coco learnt to embroider, iron and sew.

2. It is well known that Coco Chanel’s name is not in fact Coco. Born Gabrielle Chanel, she was given the nickname “Coco” by soldiers who sat in the audience whilst she sung on stage – Chanel performed in clubs in Vichy and Moulins and some say that the name comes from one of the songs she used to sing. Chanel herself said that it was a “shortened version of cocotte, the French word for 'kept woman.”

3. In 1918, Coco Chanel established her Maison at number 31 rue Cambon. The House of Chanel is the oldest active couture house to this day and its ateliers continue to work in the very same floor of the building.

4. Often credited with revolutionising women’s fashion, Coco Chanel was the first designer to envision and model women wearing suits and trousers.

5. We know that Chanel No. 5 was named after her lucky number; the reason being that a fortune teller once told her that 5 was going to be her lucky number. In 1920, when presented with small glass vials containing sample scent compositions numbered 1 to 5 and 20 to 24, without smelling them she chose the fifth out of superstition, "I present my dress collections on the fifth of May, the fifth month of the year and so we will let this sample number five keep the name it has already, it will bring good luck.” And that it did, Chanel No.5 is the best selling fragrance of all time. To this day a new bottle is purchased every 30 seconds.

6. When Coco Chanel designed her first handbag, in 1929, she caused a minor scandal for including a shoulder strap which was considered very improper at the time, “I got fed up with holding my purses in my hands and losing them,” she said, “so I added a strap.”

7. Have you ever wondered why the lion is so present in Coco’s costume jewellery and suits? Born under the Leo star sign, the lion can be seen engraved on the bottoms of her tweed suits and she even used to wear a lion cress on her jackets.

8. Coco Chanel was admired by her many followers and contemporaries but whether she could say the same for them might be another matter. Chanel accused Christian Dior of dressing women like armchairs and said that she admired Balenciaga’s designs but questioned his ability to cut. In 1954 she was interviewed by Vogue where she told them that she had “always been copied by others”.

9. As we know Chanel died in her bed in the Ritz Hotel in 1971 as she said to her maid, “You see, this is how you die”.

10. Coco Chanel was buried in Lausanne, Switzerland and designed her own tombstone which features the emblematic lion and simply reads her name and the dates in which she lived. Speaking of her death, she once said, “Without stone above me, I would like to leave if I had the wish to go to Heaven and dress the angels”, she said.