From a young age, Christine has had a passion for all things French. As a child, her grandmother began to teach her to speak French, which she continued with a private tutor and later in school. She was also interested in fashion. She enjoyed the game “Fashion Plates” which allowed her to create endless style combinations and select color palates for these ensembles. When she was in high school, she spent a summer taking classes at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City. Several years later, while working as an interior designer in Chicago, she and one of her first clients used several chairs from Coco Chanel’s Paris dining room for the client’s home on Michigan Avenue (see photo below). It is not a surprise that Christine’s client subsequently nicknamed her after one of the most noted French fashion designers of all time. Later, other clients and peers began to call Christine “Coco” as it so suited her taste and style.
August is Christine’s birthday month and to celebrate, we are reflecting on the life and accomplishments of Coco Chanel. Gabrielle Bonheur Chanel was born in Saumur, France on August 19, 1883. Chanel’s mother died when she was very young and her father worked as a peddler. Following her mother’s death, Chanel was raised by nuns in an orphanage. It was here that she was taught how to sew. Gabrielle Chanel began singing in cabaret performances in her late teens and it was during this time she was given the moniker “Coco”. She kept the name when she made her debut into the fashion world and it eventually would be known around the world.
Chanel opened her first shop in 1910, which focused primarily on her hat designs. As she opened
more stores, she began designing clothing. By the 1920s, Coco Chanel had launched her signature perfume, Chanel No. 5, the iconic Chanel suit and the Little Black Dress, which is still a go to piece in many women’s closets. Chanel’s fashion designs focused on how a woman should dress based on how it made her feel. She discontinued the use of the corset and introduced collared shirts and neckties for women. Her designs generated controversy as she discarded traditionally accepted fashion of the day for designs that focused more on comfort.
During WWII, Chanel was faced with hardship and closed her stores. At the age of 70, she made a legendary return to the fashion world and the Chanel brand and her legacy have continued with the help of designer Karl Lagerfeld.
Coco Chanel’s philosophy includes simple basics paired with timeless, high quality accessories. Chanel is known for her lifelong determination, ambition and energy in both her professional and social life. She achieved success as a businesswoman and socialite through the connections she made which included many artisans and craftspeople with whom she partnered. Her fashion is the epitome of high-class design. Throughout the years, Christine has embraced the many similarities between Coco and herself. The Chanel ideology keenly resonates with her own ideas about design. Christine is fond of pairing fun, colorful accessories with a little black dress which can be a casual or more formal in style. From a design perspective, we often aim to produce classic, unfussy interiors and then accent our client’s homes with accoutrements full of flair; the quintessential “Coco” look. Our designs don’t always follow the “rules” which is a part of our continual effort to produce state of the art interiors. Christine is thrilled to have been nicknamed “Coco” by her client for her love of fashion, France and for her design sensibility so similar to Gabrielle Chanel’s own personal style.
“Luxury must be comfortable, otherwise it is not luxury.” – Coco Chanel