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Coco Chanel: From Rags to Riches as A Fashion Icon

Fashion aficionados agree there is only one fashion icon: Coco Chanel.

“She went against what everyone thought was in style,” said Alexis Mendonca, a student at Northwestern Illinois University. “She was a bold women who wasn’t afraid to create new things.”

Chanel, born Gabrielle Bonheur Chanel, in Aug. 19, 1883, came from a very poor family and built an empire, according to

Chanel’s break came when she opened her small hat shop “Chanel Modes” in Paris in 1910. She soon became the first designer to create loose women’s jersey, which was traditionally used for men’s underwear, according to

The look became very popular and it changed the post-war generation, moving women out of their corsets.

Mendonca said she finds herself connected with the Chanel’s brand due to its elegance and classy pieces. She quoted Chanel as saying, “A girl should be two things: classy and beautiful.”

Mendonca said Chanel set an example for others. “She was a leader of fashion in her era. She was strong and she took charge,” said Mendonca.

Chanel became famous for her timeless designs: trademark suits and the well- known “little black dress.”

“You can never go wrong with a Chanel look,” said Janel Landon, instructor at Columbia College Chicago. “It screams femininity.”

Landon said her first time shopping at Chanel was at a Chanel shop in Paris during her early modeling career. She bought a tan silk blouse with a big black bow in the front that until this day she remembers fondly.

She said she is a classic dresser, and she loves Chanel because it has a classic look. “It is a style that never goes out of style.”

Mendonca and Janel agreed their favorite items have been Chanel bags.

“I have a fetish for purses, and Chanel purses catch my attention,” said Mendonca. “It turns that ‘I want’ into an ‘I need.’”

Landon said even though she loved the Chanel collections, it was always about the Chanel bags during her generation.

On the other hand Melissa Avila, student at Prairie State College, finds Chanel perfume to be her favorite of all.

According to New York magazine, Chanel introduced her first fragrance, Chanel No. 5, in 1921. “A woman who doesn’t wear perfume has no future,” said Chanel, according to

“There have been so many perfumes under her brand and I have loved every single one of them,” Avila said.

Avila saw the movie “Coco Before Chanel” and noticed how different Chanel’s taste in clothes was from other women.

“Even though she seemed plain, she looked better than any other,” Avila said. “She stood out. I liked that.”

Avila’s favorite quote from Chanel is, “In order to be irreplaceable, one must always be different.” She said the reason why it is her pick is because Chanel showed this in the way she dressed.

“She showed she was different by being herself and by doing that, she became a fashion icon,” Avila said.







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