Coco before Chanel

Who hasn't been influenced by the fascinating Gabrielle Chanel? This tough-minded, audacious girl who grew up in an orphage nick named "Coco" (as in "coco rico" in French, it's not actually a very glamorous name but rather reflects on her poor childhood) was named one of the 100 most influential people of the 20th Century.

In an era of extremely heavy fashion with feathers, flowers and carbaret, where women suffocate themselves with corsets and tight dresses, Chanel stood out with her almost "bizarre" style and called for simplicity. "Simplicity is the keynote of all true elegance." said Chanel, "you must feel comfortable and free in what you are wearing".

Coco Chanel fitting her symbolic black dress design on a model

Her little black dress, classic cut suits with a simple and chic long strand of pearl necklace have inspired top designers such as Helmut Lang, Miuccia Prada, Jil Sander and Tom Ford. But even more important, she brought the fabrics and comfort of menswear to women's style, freeing ladies from clothes that constrained them.

What Chanel achieved was a revolution, replacing discomfort with freedom of the body; adopting a simple white pearl necklace instead of colourful feathers and lace..there is an amazing sincereness and boldness in Chanel's creations that it has changed the way everybody dresses - until today.