Beyond the Iconic Handbag – Chanel’s Exquisite Influence on Fashion
The Far-Reaching Impact of Chanel On the Fashion Industry
The influence of Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel on fashion trends goes way beyond just luxury handbags. The highly influential 20th-century fashion designer altered the entire course of women’s fashion, leaving an indelible mark on the world of haute couture. Originally trained as a milliner, she moved on from the realm of hats to become a pioneer in the fashion industry. Her breakthrough was to introduce a fresh and revolutionary sartorial style that liberated women from the constraints of corsets and lace frills, replacing them with sailor shirts and wide-leg trousers. The aim was for women to move and breathe in their garments as men did. Coco’s creations liberated women in many ways.
From a designer who once famously said: “I don’t do fashion. I am fashion”, Coco Chanel did more than just change the way we dress. She also contributed an exciting new vision of what a fashion house should be – a far-reaching power that could cater to a woman’s every need, from business apparel to holiday ensembles to evening wear.
The 2.55 Bag
The Chanel 2.55, which is now considered to be one of the most iconic bags in the history of the brand, broke every norm when it debuted in February 1955. It was the first luxury bag for women to include a shoulder strap; previous clutches, including those produced by Chanel, were all carried by hand. Once again, the groundbreaking modification provided newfound freedom for women and revolutionised the design of women’s bags. The chain strap could be worn cross-body or draped over one shoulder, there was an exterior flap pocket for storing currency, while the central pouch was fashioned to hold a lipstick. Two other hallmarks of the 2.55, carried over from earlier models, were the deep burgundy lining and the diamond-stitched quilting, both of which were influenced by men’s racing coats.
Chanel’s Presence On the Silver Screen
Although Chanel is most often associated with legendary handbags, one of the most well-known Chanel references in popular culture relates to Audrey Hepburn’s little black dress from Breakfast at Tiffany’s. The garment – which Coco Chanel had made specifically for the actress to wear in the film – ushered in a new era in fashion and is still praised as a pivotal moment in terms of style. The movie also provided an example of a Chanel handbag taking centre stage, conveying the idea that a well-chosen handbag has the power to transform one’s life.
Another Chanel handbag appearance came when Margot Robbie flawlessly portrayed the late Sharon Tate in ‘Once Upon a Time in Hollywood’. The story, set in 1969, looks back at history and the tragic Manson family murders. In this movie, Tate’s black-and-white ensemble included Chanel’s iconic twist-clasp 2.55 handbag. The versatility of the Chanel brand and its association with style icons from all walks of life is well demonstrated by the regular appearance of everyday bags on the red carpet and alongside movie stars.
Chanel’s Legacy Lives On In Today’s Designs
The camellia, queen of the winter flowers, has long been associated with elegance and grace. Therefore it’s not surprising that the blossom has a significant role in Chanel’s history. Coco Chanel herself held a deep affection for the highly-prized plant and it remained a timeless symbol for her throughout the years.
The ‘Chanel Fall-Winter 2023/24 Ready-to-Wear’ collection, which emphasises pink, white and black, is another nod to Chanel’s steadfast monochromatic standards as well as the famous flower. It takes inspiration from the beauty of their exquisite blooms which creative director Virginie Viard describes as an emblem that is both reassuring and familiar. The collection’s subtle romantic elements, such as the sculpted buttons, flowering embroidery, and delicate designs, all showcase the camellia’s symbolic meaning. Few names elicit the same degree of admiration and prestige as Chanel in the world of haut couture. Chanel, renowned for its timeless designs and emblematic interlocking C logo, has for decades been a byword for sophistication, innovation, and unrivalled elegance on the catwalk. Regardless of what’s popular or what’s in vogue, Chanel will always be a classic, thanks to Coco Chanel’s bold personality and the contemporary visionaries who carry on her legacy.
Feature Image by Mona Siswanto | Unsplash