Designers

Fashion Biography

Gabrielle Chanel, Fashion Designer

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Fashion Designer Gabrielle Coco Chanel (1883 1971) was born in Saumur, Southern France. She began by designing hats, first in Paris in 1908, and later in Deauville. Her fashion boutiques (one in Paris and one in Deauville) opened simultaneously in 1914. She opened an haute couture salon in Biarritz in 1916, and in 1920 moved to Paris in the present quarters on rue Cambon. Ready to wear fashions were not introduced until 1978, after Coco"s death.

Chanel was famous for popularizing practical clothes, including pants for women, little black dresses, and box like collarless jackets with bias edging and brass buttons. Her first fabrics included wool jersey, which was comfortable and easy fitting, but was not considered suitable for fashionable clothes. Traditional Chanel accessories include multiple strands of pearls and gold chains, quilted handbags, sling back pumps in ivory with black toes, quilted handbags with shoulder straps made of gold chain, and gardenias. She liked to mix imitation jewels with real jewels and often combined massive amounts with sportswear.

Chanel"s business was interrupted by World War I and again in 1939 at the beginning of World War II, after which it did not reopen until 1953.

After her death in her Paris apartment in 1971, first her assistant designers, Gaston Berthelot and Ramon Esparza, and then her assistants Yvonne Dudel and Jean Cazaubon designed the couture (1975 83). Philippe Guibourge became the ready to wear designer. Karl Lagerfeld took over haute couture design in 1983 and ready to wear design in 1984. He rehashes her trademark styles annually in various fabrics.

In 1969, a Broadway musical, Coco, starring Katharine Hepburn, was based on Chanel"s life.

Surprisingly, Chanel acquired in mid 1997 the French, well known beach wear specialist Eres. Presumingly, Eres serves only as an financial investment for Chanel, since it is not planned to interfere with the current Eres business policy.

Chanel is a member of Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture et du Pret a Porter.

Selected Awards
Neiman Marcus Award (1957)

Economic Data
Ownership
The Chanel group is controlled by the Wertheimer family through various investment holdings (Litor Ltd., Pamerco).

Performance
Chanel keeps a very low profile on its economic figures, but sales in 1995 were estimated at over $1 billion, for 1995 sales are believed to have risen to nearly $2 billion. The new Chanel daughter Eres achieved in 1996 sales worth of 60 million Francs ($12 million) and boasts earnings of 7.2 million ($1.4 million). Lagerfeld boasts that when he took over design at Chanel, fashion sales made up only 6% of total sales. Today he estimates more than 50% of total sales stem from fashion.
The firm has about 100 boutiques worldwide, more than 35 of which are in Japan. Controlled by chairman Alain Wertheimer"s family, Chanel also owns Eres, a French beachwear and lingerie label.

Distribution
In 1992, Chanel possessed 64 fully owned boutiques. Eres has three fully owned boutiques in Paris and sells selectively to 420 retailers worldwide (30% of them in France).

Production/ Licenses
Chanel avoids licensing products in order to keep control over the merchandise.

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By Courtney Lynne
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