A mysterious woman survived by her iconic statements and audacious business decisions, Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel was a pioneer of women’s fashion. A beloved designer of luxury fashion today with a heavy emphasis in handbags, Chanel’s cultivation of her notorious namesake brand began with designing women’s clothing and perfume. Her unmatched attention to detail resulted in a treasure trove of hidden meanings and symbols that are emblematic of her personal life and reflected in Chanel designs both past and present.
The Interlocking CC Logo
One of the most significant deliberations surrounding the luxury label’s history is the origin of the interlocking CC logo. While most assume that this emblem was derived by simply reversing and overlapping the C’s in Coco and Chanel, the symbol is speculated to have been reimagined after an experience in her own life, as seen with many of the signatures of Chanel handbags.
After evolving her brand from its origins as a hat boutique, Chanel developed her brand for fifteen years before crafting the iconic logo in 1925. Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel attended a party with French socialites at the Château de Crémat, a castle in the south of France, where she witnessed the notorious symbol featured in the high vaulted arches of stunning stained glass windows. The castle remains open for public tours to this day, for those looking to catch a glimpse of French history and rumored Chanel beginnings.
The Quilted Leather
Diamond quilting is known to adorn many Chanel pieces, from designer handbags to luxury accessories, and on materials from aged calfskin to caviar. While many contemporary designer purses feature their own version of quilting, as seen with the “Cannage” quilting of Dior handbags, or the chevron “Matelasse” of Saint Laurent handbags, Chanel can be considered to have pioneered the use of quilting on designer purses with her 1955 release of the 2.55 Flap Bag.
The stitched pattern that belonged to the 2.55 was reminiscent of the quilted jackets worn by the horse breeders at the stables owned by polo player Boy Capel; Chanel's ex-lover, and forever muse. With her claim to fame owed to reinventing men’s fabrics and lifestyles for modern women, such as the use of jersey for comfort outdoors, Chanel revived the equestrian aesthetic with a feminine feel, introducing a technique that would be revered by all and adopted by many designers for years to come.
The Camellia Flower
It has long been speculated why the Camellia flower was so dear to Coco Chanel. While some favored the narrative that the Camellias were another element of male fashion adopted by Chanel, as the dandies of the time would pin these to their suits, others attested that the Camellia was a nod to her personal life, akin to many of the signatures of Chanel handbags. It is speculated that the Camellia may have been a gift from Boy Capel, whom Chanel cherished long after their passionate affair came to an end. Regardless, the Camellia flower is reported to have fascinated Gabrielle for its winter bloom, its perfect symmetry, and its lack of scent, enabling women to pin it to clothes while wearing perfume. While the origin lies within Chanel’s mysterious life, it is no question that Chanel’s Camellia flower has blossomed into one of the most beloved symbols of designer handbags to date.
The Perfume Bottle
Since the release of Chanel N°5 in 1924, a consistent feature of Chanel perfumes has been the perfume bottle’s stopper, offering a tribute to Chanel’s life in France in with its iconic silhouette. As if seeing Paris from above, the bottle’s emerald cut stopper was designed in the shape of the infamous Place Vendome, offering a rectangular body with shaved corners. Place Vendome was home to Chanel for 37 years, where she inhabited the Ritz Hotel, living her independent life at her refusal to wed and raise a family.
Later, this would prove to be a lasting link with the brand, as the Chanel Fine Jewelry Boutique premiered in Place Vendome in 1997. The reference to the infamous landmark can be seen throughout the brands iconic designs, observable in Chanel perfumes, watches, and luxury handbags, as with the infamous limited edition Chanel Plexiglass Perfume Bottle Minaudiere; the ultimate collector’s item.
It is no secret that the fashion industry has been infinitely influenced by the house of Chanel; yet, perhaps less discernible, is the extent to which her remarkable life story is being echoed in today’s textiles and silhouettes. Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel is survived by the luxury handbags, fragrances, and accessories that so subtly evoke her memoir.
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