Coco Chanel and Elsa Schiaparelli - two fashion icons who completely changed the understanding of fashion, style and clothing of the very conservative society at the time. Not only that, these two ladies have become a benchmark in haute couture and continue to dictate trends, even after their deaths. Here is how influential they turn out to be. However, one of the two prevails, despite the equal resistance, resisting not only the competition but also the time - the eternal judge.

Coco Chanel


Elsa Schiaparelli was born seven years later - Rome, 1890. Her family is wealthy and here comes the essential difference between her and Coco. Elsa's mother is a Neapolitan aristocrat, her father is a scholar with many different interests. From an early age, Elsa became interested in ancient cultures and religious rites, which inspired her to write poetry. Because of her parents' unacceptable work, Elsa was sent to a Swiss boarding house with serious discipline, from which she managed to escape by going on hunger strike. 


Paris and Rome, the two fashion capitals, await the birth of new dictators of women's taste and dress. Gabrielle Chanel was born in 1883 in Saumur, a small town near the Loire River. She is one of the five children of a retailer. When Coco was 11, her mother died of tuberculosis and her father left home, claiming she needed a better job to feed the children. They are sent to an orphanage in a Catholic convent, where Coco learns to sew, not knowing how important this skill will play in her life, much less that Paris will be her conquest, as well as the whole world.

Elsa Schiaparelli

This was probably the only time in her life when she was hungry. Unlike Coco, Elsa has never known the misery and fear of tomorrow, nor the power of ambition to succeed where others say you don't belong.


The desire for adventure and exploration of the world sends Elsa to England, where her friend offers her a job as a babysitter for an orphan in a country house. However, this turned out to be an inappropriate job for the sophisticated young lady, and she quickly left the island for Paris instead of returning to Rome with her parents in a curled tail. Schiaparelli later fled Paris in the same way, this time to save himself from an unwanted marriage. She left for London, where she met her future husband, William de Vent de Carlor. She gave birth to a baby girl named Gogo. Gradually, through friends and acquaintances, Elsa quickly entered the fashion industry. Almost immediately after the birth of the child, however, Carlor abandoned them and Elsa went to New York, where she received support from a close friend - Gabby Picabia. There he began a relationship with opera singer Mario Lorenti, and thanks to Picabia he joined the circle of surrealists and the Dada movement (Dadaism). In 1922 he returned to Paris, where he began his real career as a designer.



# newsletter

# fashion streets

Chanel has almost no childhood, or at least not like most children. At the age of 18 she left the monastery and started working as a seamstress in a local workshop. In the evening he sings in a cabaret attended by cavalry officers. At that time, he received the nickname Coco, the origin of which is still disputed. Some associate it with the song, which often sang "Who saw Coco", others believe that it comes from the French word for holder. Gabrielle herself claims that her father gave it to her. Chanel hopes to make a career as a show performer and works tirelessly to achieve this dream. On the verge of misery, fate met her with former officer Etienne Balsan and at the age of 23 she became his mistress. She lived with him on his estate for several years and thus managed to establish connections in high society. Then he falls in love with a close friend of Etienne - Captain Arthur Edward - an English aristocrat with whom he has a beautiful love affair. Arthur helps her settle in a private home and open her first boutique in Deauville. It is he who encourages her independence and encourages her to do what she is called to do. This is the first person who really believes in her and gives her confidence that she will succeed.


In 1913, the boutique in Deauville opened its doors. It sells Coco's hats, which are extremely innovative for their time, very different from the others on the market, with emphasized individuality and refined taste, without unnecessary flowers and heavy to wear decorations. In 1920, Chanel opened a boutique in Paris. Over the next decade, she introduced the little black dress, which had become everyone's favorite. A color that has so far only been used for mourning, it has become a true symbol of style and class. Coco has always sought the ingenious simplicity and purity of her models. She was the first to reach for cheaper materials such as the jersey, which is soft, comfortable and turns out to be her winning card, because the ladies of high society go crazy over it. Coco also dares to remove the obligatory corset from women's clothing, because "luxury must be comfortable, otherwise it is not luxury" - as she herself.


Models of Coco Chanel

Schiaparelli made his big breakthrough in 1927 with his famous sweater decorated with a scarf around the neckline and literally appropriated Paris with it. Everyone admires her models and wants to wear them. Later he created his skirt-pants, which is a total revolution in fashion. Paris becomes too narrow a stage for the performance of two such talented designers, enjoying great attention. At one point, they have to share the same customers. In modern parlance, the two have the same "target group", which inevitably makes them competitors. This gives rise to a kind of conflict and incessant competition. And when Duchess Wallis Simpson, one of Coco Chanel's most elite clients, orders a dress from Elsa Schiaparelli, a real war ensues to prove which one is better.


What the two designers have in common (and this is perhaps their strongest feature) is the insane ambition to succeed, with the difference that Coco Chanel was deprived of that first starting start that Elsa had, thanks to the rich and famous family, along with his high-level friendships. The Frenchwoman first had to deal with the poverty and difficult life of an orphan, build connections in society on her own and rise from nothing. Elsa had a solid foundation on which to stand without having to think about her livelihood from a young age. That's why her success comes quickly and somehow naturally. The only dark moment in Schiaparelli's life was when she was left alone with her young child, diagnosed with polio. But she has always had the support of parents and friends. While Chanel had to suffer her success in advance - all alone.

World War II was difficult for both designers. Schiaparelli closes the doors of his boutique, but continues to create models. Chanel was also forced to close during the occupation, but remained in Paris, not anywhere but at the Ritz Hotel. Rumors soon spread that she had an affair with a Nazi officer who arranged for her to stay in the most expensive hotel at this troubled time. After the end of the war, she was declared an accomplice of the Germans and was even arrested, but on Churchill's advice she was released on condition that she leave France. Chanel left for Switzerland, where she remained until 1953. After 20 years of absence from the fashion scene, in 1954 she presented her new collection, which was greeted coldly in France, but in America it was deified. Her career is on the rise again, Chanel has collaborated with names like Audrey Hepburn and Liz Taylor. Her client is Jacqueline Kennedy herself.



Elsa Schiaparelli also reaped success and built a large-scale career. Inspired by the work of Salvador Dali, she creates flashy models that become a sensation. It was the artist and his paintings that inspired her to make the famous shoe-shaped hat and dress with lobsters, which earned her world fame. Schiaparelli loves bright colors and is not afraid to experiment. For her, the meaning of fashion is to provoke and provoke violent reactions - whether outrage or admiration. One of her most famous collections is called "Circus Collection". She is strongly influenced by Dali and surrealism. Elsa's work is closer to imitating and resembling foreign artistic manifestations, such as Dali's, as well as her favorite ancient cultures and tattoos, than to the real creative impulse. She uses as inspiration absolutely everything that catches her eye and brings it into the form of clothing, as long as it is extravagant and flashy.  


For Coco Chanel, fashion is just the opposite. Her models bring a feeling of comfort and purity, which emphasizes a woman's individuality and gives her the opportunity to express herself. It is no coincidence that she has repeated so often that a woman should smell herself, but better, which becomes the motto of her perfume "Chanel-5". For her, individuality and comfort are above all, as well as the strict classics that make a woman feminine, but not lustful, formal, but not pretentious.


Elsa also creates her own perfume, inspired by Salvador Dali. He called it "Shocking", and at his insistence the bottle was in the shape of a mannequin. Like everything else, the scent of this perfume is anything but delicate purity. He is what Schiaparelli likes to do - shocking.


Time passes, fashion changes, but the classics remain. At the age of 70, Chanel made an extraordinary triumph. At that time, Schiaparelli was absent from the catwalk, her models can be seen in museums around the world, but not on the bodies of modern women. They gave up the flashy vision of her clothes and left them for the museums. In their daily lives, they rely on the comfort and unfading beauty of the classic models of Coco Chanel. Thus, the classics stand the test of time and strengthen Chanel's name as the number one designer in the world. Fate, however, is grateful for the suffering endured.

more to read

"The success of new scientific knowledge depends on the ability of historians and archaeologists to correctly and critically use genetic data" - interview with Prof. Dr. Lolita Nikolova

"The success of new scientific knowledge depends on the ability of historians and archaeologists to correctly and critically use genetic data" - interview with Prof. Dr. Lolita Nikolova

Professor Dr. Lolita Nikolova is among the leading prehistorians in Bulgaria, a world-renowned archaeologist, cultural anthropologist, genealogist and artist ... Her interests are in the field of the final Chalcolithic (Transitional period between Chalcolithic and Bronze) and especially the Early Bronze Age. ....

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This