The woman who created the empire that bears her name would be smugly approving that 40 years after her death, she’s still one of the most recognized names in fashion.
She found riding side-saddle limiting. She was the mistress of a wealthy man obsessed with horses. He had other mistresses who were more beautiful. To compete, she spent time with him where his other mistresses would not, in his stable, and she became an accomplished horsewoman. To succeed, you need to be fully engaged in the endeavor.
She re-wrote her history. She famously said “I invented my life by taking for granted that everything I did not like would have an opposite, which I would like.” She denied the existence of some family members, invented others and had so many variations of her past, it’s impossible to historically prove or disprove many of them.
Not everybody was an early adopter. Her business made her one of the wealthiest women of her time. Had she not already had great success selling clothing, her legendary Chanel #5 perfume would have made her a multi-millionaire. Even today, it’s one of the most recognized and best-selling perfumes in the world, with one bottle selling every 30 seconds.
She’s often described as unconventionally beautiful. Her beauty wasn’t the first thing one noticed about her. What every biographer tapped into was her overpowering energy and her mesmerizing self-confidence. She didn’t set out to be one of the most recognized names in fashion. She wanted to be a café singer. She couldn’t sing well enough but she was good at making hats and getting them worn by women who mattered. Then she proved to be a genius at building a fashion empire that exactly reflected her style.