There are certain brands which spring to mind whenever anyone talks about luxury goods and designer accessories. One of them is undoubtedly Chanel – a brand with one of the most recognisable logos in the world, some of the highest value handbags and jewellery pieces on the luxury market, and a story that’s well worth telling.
Founded in 1910, Chanel is nearly a quarter of the way into its second century, yet boasts the prominence of a name that has been around for much longer. So, how did Chanel rise to become the fashion empire it is today – and where did it all begin? Let’s take a closer look.
The Early History of Chanel
The story of Chanel started with a specialist hat shop, opened by Coco Chanel in 1910. Born Gabrielle though called Coco by those who knew her, Coco Chanel’s hat shop was soon a go-to for celebrities and actresses and built a reputation that has followed the designer brand ever since.
In 1912, the Chanel name expanded into its own boutique, and in 1913 launched a range of sportswear in jersey fabric which had previously only been used to make men’s underwear. Thus, the rise of a trendsetter began.
How Chanel became a leader in the fashion world
As is so often the case with the most successful brands, much of Chanel’s success came from the designer and brands’ ability to be flexible and to adapt product lines according to demand and consumer interest. In 1921, Chanel launched the iconic No.5 perfume to reflect the real scent of a woman, and in 1924 the first Chanel makeup collection was launched.
The 1920s followed with more perfume and skincare releases, with the subsequent years focussed on overcoming the challenges of war prior to 1955 when the first Chanel handbags were produced and sold.
How the Chanel brand has adapted over the years
When assessing the success of the Chanel brand over the years, it is easy to see the direct influence that Chanel has had in the world of fashion and trends – many of which still live on today. The little black dress, now a staple of any woman’s evening wardrobe, was an idea born by Chanel in the 1920s. In contrast, the innovative use of jersey fabric for a line of women’s sportswear is still considered one of Chanel’s earliest fashion moves.
In 1955, the first Chanel handbags marked a shift towards fashion which was accessible for everyday women and bridged the gap between owning something functional and owning something stylish. The 2.55 handbag allowed for hands-free carrying thanks to its over-the-shoulder design – with the design still an iconic part of the modern-day Chanel collection.
Another notable part of Chanel’s continued success and rise in the luxury designer market has to be attributed to the names associated with the brand – not just in inspiring and showcasing the brand, but in terms of the people behind the different areas of Chanel’s market success. For example, the appointment of Karl Lagerfeld as Artistic Director in 1983 marked a great restoration of the brand’s earliest successes, including the reinvention of the couture collection and many of the ready-to-wear collections still around today.
This flexibility and ability to adapt to an ever-changing market have allowed Chanel to ride its storms and overcome challenges, combined with its desire to innovate and push the market just like Gabrielle Chanel did in the earliest days of launching her brand.
The success of Chanel in the modern market
Finally, to the modern market, and to the moves which have taken Chanel from an exclusive boutique designer to a powerhouse of the fashion world – largely through acquisition and continued development, as well as the exclusive releases and price increases which add to the coveted status of each and every authentic Chanel piece.
In 1985, Chanel acquired Maison Desrues – a button maker and craft house that was brought on board to enhance the hardware and creativity within the Chanel design team. In 1987, watches were added to the growing Chanel product line, with the 1990s marking the acquisition of a Swiss watchmaking manufacturer.
All in all, Chanel is a luxury brand with much more than just a recognisable logo and some high-end, high-value collections under its belt. Built on innovation and a desire to bridge the gap between functional style and exquisite finishes, Chanel is one of the leading brands in terms of its products and its story – making it one of the most coveted and in-demand brands on the designer market.