Extraordinary Women

Coco Chanel

Season 1, Episode 2 of 13

She was an illegitimate child, born into a poorhouse and abandoned in an orphanage, but Coco Chanel rose from unimaginable poverty to create the most iconic fashion brand of the 20th century, The House of Chanel. With steely ambition, she took advantage of wealthy lovers, rose to the top in a male-dominated world, and created a style of clothing that changed the face of women's fashion forever. She encouraged women to dress comfortably, with simplicity and for themselves, rather than their men. Starting with a modest hat shop in Paris, an Empire grew and the House of Chanel came to epitomise luxury and style. Yet behind the success, lay a hidden story of wartime collaboration with the Nazis and a lifetime of disastrous affairs with unsuitable lovers, including the Duke of Westminster, Russian composer Igor Stravinsky and Nazi spy Hans Gunther von Dincklage. Always a mistress, never a wife, Coco's longing for love nearly cost her everything. Yet at the age of 88, when she died at her Ritz apartment in Paris, Coco Chanel was officially still working. She triumphed over the adversity of her lowly birth and two world wars, and clung onto her fashion empire which, to this day, continues to be successful and respected the world over.

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