Gabrielle "Coco" Chanel was born in France in 1883 and died in 1971. She was a pioneering fashion designer who revolutionized women's fashion. She designed modern and simple clothes that were often based on menswear. She was so important that she was the only designer named in ‘Time’ magazine's list of the 100 most influential people of the 20th century.
Chanel had a very poor upbringing. Her mother worked in the poorhouse where Gabrielle was born. She died when Gabrielle was six and then her father abandoned her. She adopted the name Coco while she was a cafe singer in 1905. Two lovers funded her first store in Paris in 1910. They also helped her hats become popular with rich women.
In the 1920s, Chanel rose to become Paris’ top fashion designer. Her comfortable, yet elegant clothes were popular across Europe. Women found her mannish clothes to be liberating. In 1922 Chanel introduced her perfume, Chanel No. 5, which is still highly profitable. Her famous Chanel suit has also stood the test of time and is part of the modern woman's wardrobe.
At the beginning of World War II she moved into the Ritz Hotel in Paris, which became her home for 30 years. During the Nazi occupation of Paris she had a lover, a German spy. This relationship made her unpopular for a decade after the war. Her 1954 collection did badly in France. Today, however, her name is the biggest in fashion.