Coco Chanel

Powerful Essays
Final Research Paper
May 3, 2012

Fashion Leader, Nazi Informant, Compulsive Liar:
Coco Chanel (1918-1945)

Agent F-7124, code name: Westminster. To those of you who were not involved with German Military Intelligence during World War II, you may know Agent F-7124 as Coco Chanel. Chanel has been one of the top names in high end fashion for almost one hundred years but the woman behind the brand has a shocking past that would make any customer think twice before a purchase. Chanel herself once said during the German Occupation of France, “For a woman betrayal has no sense—one cannot betray one’s passions1.” Chanel held this statement true through three affairs with Nazi officers during World War II, an affair with a French textile heir who introduced her to an English aristocrat who conveniently funded her first two boutiques in Paris2. In short, Chanel slept her way to the top of the fashion industry. Nonetheless, in 1926 the October issue of American Vogue Magazine credits Chanel with standardizing fashion in a caption under her signature black dress, “Here is a Ford signed Chanel—the frock that all the world will wear.”3 And they did; by 1935 Chanel was selling 28,000 designs worldwide.4 Coco Chanel was born Gabrielle Bonheur Chanel in 1883 in Paris, France and was the second child to an unwed mother. Years later her parents would marry and have five more children. When Chanel was 12 years old her mother died and her father took Chanel and her six siblings to a convent for orphans where nuns would raise them until they reached age 18. At the convent Chanel learned to sew and was able to find work as a seamstress when she left. Living on her own, Chanel started to sing in a cabaret where she adopted the stage name Coco. Military officers and upper class members of society frequented the cabaret and Chanel met textile heir Étienne Balsan. Balsan introduced her to Captain Arthur Capel; Capel would buy her an apartment in Paris and finance her first two

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