From cabaret to the rue Cambon
The global brand power of Chanel today is all the more extraordinary for the story of its founder. Gabrielle ‘Coco’ Chanel was born in 1883 in the French town of Saumur, and experienced a childhood of poverty and tragedy. Coco was illegitimate, and when her mother died of tuberculosis when she was 12, she and her two sisters were abandoned by their father and sent to live in a strict Catholic orphanage. It was Coco’s enduring ambition, talent and charm which saw her reroute her destiny. After several years working as a seamstress and part-time cabaret singer, she opened her first millinery shop, Chanel Modes, on the rue Cambon in Paris in 1910, aided by her lover of the time, Boy Capel (after whom the Boy Bag is named). Coco’s refreshingly modern designs, compared with the old-fashioned frippery of traditional couture houses, instantly made their mark on the streets of Paris.