We all know who Coco Chanel the icon is, and the brand name ‘Chanel’, most probably because of these two items:
Chanel No. 5 Parfum
Chanel Tweed Jacket
I’ve been reading Sleeping with the Enemy: Coco Chanel’s Secret War, and while some aspects bothered me such as her antisemitism and homophobia, she was still a wildly successful entrepreneur who rose from poverty as an orphan to become one of the best-known, most enduring brand names in fashion.
She is also a woman who didn’t depend on others for her bread and butter.
Having grown up an orphan and having refashioned herself into a sophisticated, elegant woman, she understood the value of everything she had.
Although she had many wealthy lovers who offered to pay for a lot of things, she refused their offers to be a kept woman, and met them on her terms, as an equal.
Chanel took money and advice from Boy Capel in the beginning, but after she was independent, she stopped with the handouts and always insisted on paying her share.
She worked every day, and was always thinking about her business and how to improve it.
Coco had approximately $230 million in 1931, which for a woman in France, is an enormous sum of money.
She made some bad business decisions such as selling the majority of her wildly successful Coco Chanel No. 5 to the Wertheimer brothers, but she still was a substantially wealthy and financially independent woman until the day she died.
All in all, she was financially independent, tough and as French Vogue once said: “Coco Chanel is more than just a Grande Dame, she’s a Monsieur.”
Sexist, yes… but it says everything of how successful she had become for a woman in those days.
Coco Chanel is a financial role model for all women everywhere. That’s not to say you should never get married and have a string of wealthy lovers like her, but adopting the same attitude of — I am your equal — goes a long way.