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W Women

Coco Chanel.

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After Coco’s mother passed away, her father placed her in an orphanage. She was raised by nuns who taught her to sew, foreshadowing the successful career to come. But first a penniless Coco worked as a club singer, where she reportedly earned her nickname (Coco was born Gabrielle). Still in love with sewing, she convinced her lover, Etienne Balsan, to build a millinery business in Paris.

In 1910, she opened her first business, a hat shop, also in Paris. She later established boutiques in Biarritz and Deauville, this time making and selling clothes. Her designs were hugely successful, and by the 1920s, Coco had debuted her iconic perfume: Chanel No. 5. Five years later she launched the classic Chanel suit (the collarless jacket and fitted skirt).

Coco is notably the only fashion designer on Time magazine’s list of the 100 most influential people of the 20th century. She is credited with liberating women of the early 20th century from the confines of the corset, and introducing simpler fashion, lines and fabrics that endure today.

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