Coco Chanel was a French fashion designer and founder of the Chanel brand. She was the only fashion designer to appear on Time magazine’s list of the 100 most influential people of the 20th century. Along with Paul Poiret, Chanel was credited with liberating women from the constraints of the “corseted silhouette” and popularizing the acceptance of a sportive, casual chic as the feminine standard in the post-World War I era.
‘Coco Chanel was the incomparable enigmatic leader of international fashion in the 1920’s, rivalled only with Elsa Schiaparelli in the 1930’s. In 1922 Cocteau asked her to create the costumers for Antigone (with sets by Picasso) ‘because she is the greatest designer of our day’. No one understood more clearly, or earlier, then Chanel that a major shift in design concepts was about to occur, with strong movement towards clean lines and mass production. She anticipated the emancipation of women and avoided designing only for the elite, as Poiret did. Like Diaghilev, who’s later ballets (which she finically supported) embraced the avant-guard. Chanel drew inspiration from modern art movements. Her designs reflect the streamlining and functionalism found in modernist architecture, Constructivism and the bauhaus, and she often gave her suits a boxy shape, rather like simplified cubism. Slim, classic, graceful, elegant and often sporty, Chanel’s signature fashions were styles that could easily be produced in large numbers by post-World War I manufacturers.’