There are certain fashion brands that have stood the test of time; these brands are the pure depiction of tradition, elegance, and to put things bluntly - money. Amongst these famous brands, is the one and only CHANEL. Over the years, it has been made into a household name, and now it is extremely rare to find someone that has not at least heard of the brand. It has created several iconic products, such as the little black dress, the perfume which goes by the name of ‘Chanel N°5’, and the classic purse that has been seen on the arms of some of the most influential fashion icons over the decades.
This remarkable fashion name has been around since it was founded in Paris, in the year 1910 by the couturier, Gabrielle Coco Chanel, who started her first hat shop, "Chanel Mode," in 1910 and expanded her business to include gowns in subsequent years. Her popularity grew quickly, owing to the fact that her designs pushed the boundaries of conventional womenswear, such as corsets, by bringing a sporty, basic style. She launched her first couture shop in Paris in 1918. The brand's first-ever fragrance, the aforementioned ‘Chanel N°5’ was released a few years later, in 1921, and its elegant scent certainly made its mark. The perfume grew to a larger name than expected when the famous actress and icon, Marylin Monroe revealed the fact that she simply wore ‘a few drops of N°5’ to bed.
The defining factor in what has helped CHANEL grow to be one of the most influential fashion brands is its ability to revolutionize fashion. During the Great Depression era, women were having a hard time finding ways to be chic with the fallen economy and low pay grades. The revolutionary brand then came up with a solution - the little black dress as it is called, allowed women to look effortlessly elegant without putting too large a strain on their wallets.
Although women’s fashion altered over the years, especially after the occurrence of WWII - in which all of CHANEL’s boutiques were closed, and the brand only sold perfumes and small accessories - CHANEL merely changed its formula slightly, helping it adapt over the years, yet still maintaining its signature style. This has made it extremely adored by the public, especially high-status celebrities, who wish to convey a sense of tradition and timeless beauty in their looks.
One of the most historically remembered CHANEL outfits is that worn by first-lady, Jackie Kennedy. What makes this outfit so incredibly memorable is the fact that Jackie was dawning it on the day of her husband's assassination, leaving an image that is clearly recognizable by both people of the fashion industry and those who have studied this fateful day. However, she was not the only influential woman of this time that was often seen wearing CHANEL.
A new era for Chanel was signified after the loss of Coco Chanel, the legend that had built the timeless brand into all of its glory. Following the death of Mademoiselle Chanel, the haute couture house was run by a succession of designers until Karl Lagerfeld took control in 1983, becoming CHANEL's second most important figure. Several of Chanel's most well-known pieces, including the infamous "CC" monogram, were introduced during Karl Lagerfeld's tenure. Following Chanel's death, the corporation had primarily concentrated on creating fragrances, which accounted for the majority of profits, and selling accessories, until Lagerfeld went into Chanel's headquarters in 1983 and essentially saved the brand as a fashion house.
After his reign commenced, the brand was partly reinvented, yet it still managed to maintain the style that had been used during the past years; helping it keep its status and classic tones. His work with the brand during the ’90s and early 2000s is still applauded to this day, and in red carpet events, celebrities can sometimes be seen wearing vintage Chanel looks that honor this fateful time for the brand. CHANEL had a string of successful ads during the 1990s, several of which were photographed by Karl Lagerfeld himself. The 1996/97 FW Ready-to-Wear campaign, which featured Stella Tennant as the face of the collection, was one of them.
The brand’s fate was altered once more in the year 2019. Karl Lagerfeld, the legendary fashion designer, passed away on February 19, 2019. The loss of Lagerfeld caused the fashion industry a great deal of grief, as both models and designers alike mourned the loss of a true artistic visionary. He was said to have worked nonstop right up to his death. Lagerfeld's longtime right hand Virginie Viard has been chosen as the new artistic director of CHANEL. She has officially started a new chapter for CHANEL by paying tribute to Coco CHANEL and building on Karl Lagerfeld's legacy. The entire world is now watching to see what she will do next and how CHANEL will evolve over the next few years.
After the loss of Karl Lagerfeld, some have worried that CHANEL would lose its essence as the industry had been accustomed to his designs and innovative ideas for years. Even as many celebrities continue to use the brand's designs in red carpet looks, the ones that are most renowned turn out to be those that were designed during Lagerfeld's time. The perfect mix of modern elegance and traditional beauty that are blended when it comes to CHANEL is what makes it what it is today; a name as powerful as that is difficult to lose.
Recently, the brand has adopted a new way of selling its products. Similar to what Hermes has been doing, they have decided to limit the number of products that a single customer can purchase in a year. This makes the already sought-after designs even harder to possess, as prices go up steadily through the years, now joined by actual purchase limits. Of course, the limit means that now, more than ever, this brand is enforcing the idea that it is the perfect picture of class and money; seeing as their products are desirable and unachievable, time will only tell if this was the right move for the brand.
The most recent runways and collections by the brand still featured snippets of the same formula; with the classic chequered patterns and a focus on simpler colours. Although discussions are always present in the fashion industry as ideas collide, there are a few opinions that the brand is not what it used to be. Still, it is to be expected that as leadership and times change, the brand will adapt to these factors, yet the loss of its most basic formula which was established by Coco Chanel cannot be lost, as the brand would lose its entire essence and all that makes it so recognizable.