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Gabrielle Bonheur Chanel (aka Coco Chanel) was born in 1883 in France and died there at the age of 87 in 1972. During her time on earth, she turned the fashion world on its heal, breaking rules and creating new ones that left millions clamoring for her fashions and fragrances. To the world and fashion industry, she is remembered as the premier diva of fashion of the twentieth century. She was bold, brave, extremely intelligent and possessed the savvy and know-how to get exactly what she wanted at a time when women were expected to be timid and mild.
- Born August 19, 1883
- Born in Saumur, France
- Died January 10, 1971
Coco was orphaned at the age of six and raised by two aunts in the province of Auvergne. From these two aunts she learned the ways of a proper lady including how to walk, sit and talk politely. At the tender age of 16 she became the mistress of Etienne Balsan, a millionaire cavalry officer, who financed her move to Paris and the opening of her first hat business. After her affair with Balsan ended she took up with his friend Arthur (Boy) Chapel who provided the financial backing for Coco's move to the coastal resorts of Deauville and Biarritz where she expanded her fashion line to include clothing.
Although Arthur Chapel was thought to be her true love, Coco's life was filled with many love affairs, one of which nearly caused her to loose all she had struggled to achieve over the years. At one point she almost married the Duke of Westminster, one of the richest men in Europe at the time. Coco turned down the Duke's proposal however, stating as her reason, "There have been several Duchesses of Westminster. There is only one Chanel". Another much publicized affair was with Hans Gunther von Dincklage, a Nazi officer. Coco's association with Dincklage during World War II cost her dearly in terms of her reputation. When she staged a comeback in the 1950s, it was the Americans who clamored for her products while the European public virtually froze her out.