Chanel still means chic

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 19 December, 2002, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 19 December, 2002, 12:00am

Read this article about Coco Chanel and then answer the questions.

Everyone looks at the price tag on an item of clothing before deciding to buy. Whether the pants or the top are worth the price depends on lots of things, but paying almost HK$3,000 for a pair of tights is an option not many shoppers will ever find themselves having to face.

Top French fashion house Chanel is now selling women's tights at a price of just under HK$3,000. What would Coco Chanel herself have said about such a price-tag on a piece of essential female attire?

Chanel single-handedly transformed the face of female fashion. She started a revolution by designing clothes for women that were both simple and elegant at the same time. Until Chanel came along, simplicity and elegance were criteria only applied to men's fashion. Gabrielle Chanel changed all that.

She was born into poverty in the small French town of Saumur in 1883. When she was 12, her mother died and her father disappeared. Chanel was brought up by two aunts until she was 17 and then she moved into a local orphanage run by Catholic nuns.

Life was hard and lonely. But the nuns taught Chanel how to sew, a skill that was eventually to turn her into household name. When she left the orphanage she tried to become a dancer and singer, but failed miserably. But the time she spent in bars and cabarets had introduced her to people with money. In her spare time, Chanel enjoyed decorating friends' hats and in 1909 one of her rich boyfriends volunteered to finance a business for her.

She opened her own millinery shop in Paris and adopted the nickname Coco. Soon her simple, uncluttered hats were the rage of the city. She quickly expanded her business to making clothes, using the same no-frills ideas that had launched the hat business. Parisian women could not buy enough of her stylish designs.

Coco Chanel was soon France's most famous fashion designer and it was not long before her radical clothing was all the rage in America. Her designs were copied and adapted by hundreds of other designers, spreading her influence into wardrobes all over the world.

Chanel's career as a fashion designer bounced up and down during the years that followed World War II, but one thing did remain the same. In 1923, she launched a perfume called Chanel No 5. It was the first fragrance to bear a fashion designer's name and it turned out to be liquid gold. After 80 years of beating off thousands of wannabes, Chanel No 5 is still the world's most famous perfume.

By her death in 1971, Chanel had more than earned her position as the 20th century's most influential fashion designer. She had invented new ways of dressing for countless women who still today wear her little black dress and power suit.

Chanel may have died 30 years ago, but her ideas are still present in the clothes collection of every modern woman who wants to look stylish and chic.


1. What was Coco Chanel's real name?

2. Where and when was she born?

3. What was her childhood like?

4. How old was she when her mother died?

5. How did she break into the fashion industry?

6. What was new about her clothes?

7. What did she launch in 1923?

8. When did she die?


1. Her real name was Gabrielle Chanel.

2. She was born in Saumur in 1883.

3. She had a very difficult childhood.

4. Her mother died when she was 12.

5. She began making hats.

6. Chanel's designs were simple and elegant.

7. A perfume called Chanel No 5.

8. She died in 1971.


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Chanel still means chic

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