Coco Chanel is a name that is synonymous with timeless elegance, high fashion, and luxury. She is a fashion icon who revolutionized the world of fashion with her signature style that blended simplicity and sophistication. However, there is much more to Coco Chanel than just her iconic designs and famous brand. Here are 10 things you may not have known about the legendary fashion designer.

1. Her real name was Gabrielle Bonheur Chanel

Coco Chanel’s real name was Gabrielle Bonheur Chanel. She was born on August 19, 1883, in Saumur, France, to an unmarried laundrywoman and a traveling salesman. Her mother passed away when she was just 12 years old, and her father abandoned her and her siblings. Chanel was sent to an orphanage, where she learned how to sew.

This skill would later become essential in her career as a fashion designer. Chanel’s nickname, “Coco,” came from a song she used to sing as a cabaret singer called “Qui qu’a vu Coco dans l’Trocadéro?” (Who has seen Coco at the Trocadero?). The nickname stuck and became her professional name.

2. She revolutionized women’s fashion

Coco Chanel revolutionized women’s fashion by introducing simple, elegant designs that allowed women to move freely and comfortably. She believed that fashion should serve the wearer, not the other way around. Chanel’s most famous creations include the little black dress, the Chanel suit, and the quilted handbag.

The little black dress was considered revolutionary at the time as it was the first time black was used as a color for eveningwear. Chanel’s designs also popularized more masculine styles for women, such as pants and blazers, which were previously considered only suitable for men. Her designs embodied the idea of practicality and understated elegance, and her approach to fashion was a stark contrast to the ostentatious styles that were popular at the time.

3. She popularized fake tans

In the 1920s, Coco Chanel returned from a vacation with a sun-kissed tan, which was considered unusual at the time. However, she made tanned skin fashionable, and many women began using bronzing powders to achieve a similar look.

Chanel’s tan was seen as a symbol of leisure and luxury, and many women emulated the look. She believed that a healthy, natural-looking tan was the epitome of beauty, and her influence led to the tanning industry’s growth. Her love for tanned skin also led her to launch a line of self-tanning products, including a tinted lotion that she called “Huile de Chaldee.”

4. She was a talented singer

Coco Chanel had a beautiful singing voice and often sang in cabarets. Her love for music led her to launch a line of jewelry inspired by musical instruments.

She recorded several songs, including “La Java” and “Qui qu’a vu Coco.” Her music career was short-lived, but it was an essential part of her life and contributed to her sense of style and elegance.

5. She was a spy during World War II

Coco Chanel’s involvement in World War II is a matter of controversy. Some sources claim that she was a spy for the Germans, while others suggest that she was a double agent working for the French Resistance. Chanel lived in the Ritz Hotel in Paris, which was also the headquarters of the German military during the war.

She had a romantic relationship with a high-ranking Nazi officer, and some speculate that she used this relationship to gather intelligence. However, others believe that she was working for the French Resistance and used her position to help smuggle resistance fighters out of France. The extent of her involvement with the Nazis is still a matter of debate, but her wartime activities are an essential part of her legacy.

6. She was a feminist

Coco Chanel was a feminist ahead of her time. She believed in empowering women through fashion and famously said, “I don’t do fashion, I am fashion.” Her designs were practical and understated, which was in stark contrast to the ornate styles that were popular at the time. Chanel’s designs liberated women from the constricting and uncomfortable clothes of the early 20th century, allowing them to move freely and comfortably.

She believed that fashion should serve the wearer, not the other way around, and her designs embodied this philosophy. Chanel’s life story is a testament to the strength and resilience of women. She overcame poverty, abandonment, and discrimination to become one of the most successful fashion designers in history. Her legacy continues to inspire women all over the world to this day.

7. She had a complicated love life

Coco Chanel had several lovers throughout her life, including the Duke of Westminster and the composer Igor Stravinsky. Her love life was complicated, and she never married or had children. Her relationships were often tumultuous and fueled by her independent spirit and determination.

Chanel was known for her independence and believed that a woman did not need a man to be successful. Her personal life was as unconventional as her designs, and her love affairs added to her mystique and allure.

8. She was a fan of astrology

Coco Chanel was fascinated by astrology and often consulted astrologers. She believed that the stars could influence a person’s destiny and even created a line of jewelry inspired by astrological symbols.

Chanel’s interest in astrology was not uncommon during the early 20th century, but she took it to a new level. She believed that the stars could guide her decisions and help her navigate life’s challenges. Her interest in astrology added to her enigmatic persona and contributed to her unique sense of style.

9. She was a philanthropist

Coco Chanel was known for her charitable works, including donating to hospitals and orphanages. She also supported the arts, including the Ballets Russes and the composer Pierre Boulez. Chanel’s philanthropy was fueled by her desire to give back to the community and support causes that were important to her.

She believed in using her success and influence to make a positive impact on the world. Chanel’s philanthropic efforts added to her legacy as a trailblazer and an icon of style and grace.

10. She died at the Ritz Hotel

Coco Chanel died on January 10, 1971, at the Ritz Hotel in Paris, where she had lived for many years. She was 87 years old and had left a lasting legacy in the world of fashion. Chanel’s death was a significant loss to the fashion world, and her influence continues to be felt to this day.

She was buried in Lausanne, Switzerland, where she spent the last years of her life. Her legacy lives on through the iconic brand she created, which remains one of the most recognized and respected fashion houses in the world.