Yesterday marked 132 years since the date that Gabrielle "Coco" Chanel was born. Whether you love fashion or not, Coco Chanel shaped how women dress today, from her rise from poverty to life as a socialite surrounding World War II, to her first couture shops, to the coveted Chanel runways we know today, run by her successor, Karl Lagerfeld.
Chanel changed the form of fashion in the 20th century, liberating women from the corset and restricting silhouettes, and infusing womenswear with a kind of androgeny that has remained popular to this day. The tweed suit is one of Chanel's crowning victories, designing a classic style that would allow women to mix masculine and feminine elements in a professional look. Chanel is also known for "inventing" the little black dress, the true staple of womenswear, after popularizing the short and simply-cut style that women and designers would be working worth for generations to follow.
The following quotes are some of her most well-known tokens of wisdom about fashion.
“Fashion is not something that exists in dresses only. Fashion is in the sky, in the street, fashion has to do with ideas, the way we live, what is happening."
Like most art forms, fashion does not exist in a bubble; it is influenced by the outside world, political and cultural developments. For the Chanel spring/summer 2015 collection, Karl Lagerfeld held a runway show in the form of a street demonstration (above photo), intermixing messages about fashion and about feminism, war, and general politics.
“Women think of all colors except the absence of color. I have said that black has it all. White too. Their beauty is absolute. It is the perfect harmony.”
Then and now, the Chanel brand is often associated with classic black and white. Chanel and Largerfeld didn't avoid color, they just see the possibilities of the black and white color combinationt that so many categorized as boring, ultimately proving them wrong.
(Above photos from contemporary Chanel runways.)
“In order to be irreplaceable, one must always be different.”
This quote is pretty self-explanatory. Chanel has always succeeded in reinventing what we know and love to open our minds to fashion's ability to change, grow, and encourage the art of everyday life to be as creative as possible. Coco and Karl have both refused to work within the conventions of texture, pattern, and proportion.
“Fashion fades, only style remains the same.”
This quote remains entirely relevant to the fashion world, which is often criticized with having a transient nature that makes it impossible to define true art. Chanel's take on style, however, reminds us that fashion is the constant cycle of invention and reinvention, while style is the axis on which it turns.
It is no small achievement that Chanel remains at the top of the fashion world, a label praised and coveted, associated with elegant and intelligent dressing.