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Thought you knew everything about Coco Chanel? Think again.

We explore some facts about mademoiselle Chanel

coco chanel facts
Natalie Salmon
Fashion Digital Editor
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Few designers are as revered as the iconic Coco Chanel, one of the most influential designers of the 21st century. Here are some interesting things you may not have known about the legendary French designer…

Coco Chanel is not her real name

Chanel’s real name is Gabrielle Bonheur Chanel. The name Coco is thought to have come from her time as a cabaret singer. She became known for singing “Ko Ko Ri Ko” and “Qui qu’a vu Coco”. Later in life she told people that Coco was a childhood nickname. Perhaps because a cabaret career was ‘uncouth’ for a couture designer at the time.

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coco chanel

Coco Chanel was actually born Gabrielle Chanel

Chanel was brought up in an Orphanage

Chanel along with her two sisters was sent to live in an orphanage by her father after their mother died of tuberculosis. The orphanage was Aubazine Abbey and was run by nuns. Her humble origins certainly defied convention at the time.

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Chanel was originally a milliner

Chanel milliner© Photo: Getty Images

After her brief stint as a singer Coco Chanel became a licensed milliner in 1910. She opened her first boutique at 21 rue Cambon, Paris. It was named Chanel Modes and her hats were soon worn by well-known French actresses of the era, and helped build her reputation.

She had affairs but never married

It is documented that Chanel had 8 lovers, one of which was Hugh Richard Arthur Grosvenor, the 2nd Duke of Westminster who known to his close friends as "Bendor". She was introduced to him at the age of 40. After meeting the duke courted Chanel with extravagant gifts including a home in London's prestigious Mayfair area. Disguised as a deliveryman, Westminster once appeared at Chanel's apartment with an enormous bouquet of flowers. In 1927 he gave her a parcel of land on the French Riviera at Roquebrune-Cap-Martin. It was there that Chanel built her villa, La Pausa. Their romantic liaison lasted ten years. She never married but was known for various high profile romantic conquests.

chanel duke of westminster

Chanel with her lover Duke of Westminster in 1924 at the Chester races

Chanel was an Anglophile...

Few people know what Chanel was obsessed with the Scottish countryside. Apparently this was thanks to her liaison with the Duke of Westminster, who introduced her to British country pursuits. For a time she lived in a sprawling 20-bedroom estate called Rosehall House, which is located near Lairg in Scotland. The estate was owned by the Duke for just two years but in that time Chanel redecorated the pile to suit her tastes. 

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The real reason Chanel used tweed

Gabrielle Coco Chanel© Photo: Getty Images

Chanel is famous for its use of tweed, but did you know the fabric has little to do with the French origins of the brand? In fact Tweed was used by Chanel because she fell in love with the fabric during her time in Scotland. The entire Chanel AW22 show was dedicated to Tweed and Coco’s love of the highlands.

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Chanel is the world's oldest couture house

In operation that is. There are couture houses that are older, but Chanel is the oldest couture house which is still active and producing garments. The maison was officially established by Coco Chanel at 31 rue Cambon in 1918. Ateliers still produce garments at the legendary address.

chanel couture

Chanel is the world's oldest active couture house

There was a Chanel musical

Chanel was turned into a musical back in 1969. The titular character was played by legendary Hollywood actress Katharine Hepburn and it was nominated for seven Tony Awards. It won two awards, Best Featured Actor in a Musical and of course it won the gong for Best Costume Design.

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Chanel’s star sign was Leo

Chanel often uses Lions in their jewellery, and that is because of Chanel’s zodiac sign. Chanel was born 19 August 1883, making her a Leo. It is reported that she kept a Lion figurine near her cutting scissors. She even designed her own headstone for her burial with 5 ornate lions.

Chanel lived in the Ritz

Chanel spent over 30 years of her life living in The Ritz Paris. Despite owning a luxurious apartment just above her boutique across the street on rue Cambon, in 1937 she moved into the hotel into suite No. 302. She slept there until her death in 1971, but used to use her apartment during the day.

coco chanel apartment© Photo: Getty Images

Chanel chose to live the last 30 years of her life in The Ritz

Coco Chanel's last words

Coco Chanel’s last words to her maid Celine were “You see, this is how you die.” She died in her bed at the Hotel Ritz at 9pm on the 10 January 1971. She left her fortune and most of her estate to her nephew André Palasse, who lived in Switzerland, and his two daughters, who lived in Paris.

5 was Chanel's lucky number 

It's no coincidence that the most famous perfume in the world bears Chanel's lucky number in its title. The deliciously fizzy and aldehydic Chanel No. 5 was named after the vial labelled with the number '5' that expert perfumer Ernest Beaux had created for her.

Coco Chanel quotes 

The legendary fashion house founder will be remembered for her signature suits and little black dresses, but also the quips and witticisms attributed to her will equally stand the test of time. Here are a few of Coco Chanel's best quotes: 

"Dress shabbily and they remember the dress; dress impeccably and they remember the woman."

"Some people think luxury is the opposite of poverty. It is not. It is the opposite of vulgarity."

"A woman who cuts her hair is about to change her life."

"If you're sad, add more lipstick and attack."

"Adornment, what a science! Beauty, what a weapon! Modesty, what elegance!"

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