Leadership — No 5 stays ahead

It is said that no lady’s wardrobe can be considered complete without one of her creations. Even ninety-eight years after its launch, a bottle of her most famous fragrance is sold every 30 seconds. Coco Chanel did not only create fashion; she defined it forever.

Born into abject poverty and abandoned at an orphanage as a child, Chanel did whatever it took to survive — singing at cabarets and working as a shop girl to make ends meet. With financial assistance from one out of a string of lovers, she was able to open a millinery where she sold simple sportswear along with hats that she made. She soon turned her attention to clothing and used jersey (a fabric used for making men’s underwear at the time) to make women’s clothing. Within five years, she had made a name for herself, bringing in the “poor girl” look to attract influential wealthy women who were looking to abandon the corseted styles of the day. Chanel believed in “comfortable luxury” and in the following years would design the tweed blazer, quilted bag with chain straps and her legendary “little black dress” — styles which are reproduced by contemporary labels year after year to this day.

She chose the fifth of the fragrances that she had worked on with a talented French perfume creator and introduced the iconic Chanel No 5 in 1923, becoming the first fashion designer to venture into fragrances — a now common occurrence. Her work was interrupted by the Second World War and Chanel closed her store, resurfacing in 1954 to debut bell bottoms for the world.

Throughout her life, Coco Chanel did what it took to succeed while redefining the fashion world for ever — finding ways to finance her ventures, challenging the trends of the day, and venturing into areas that were hitherto unknown.

Will you have the courage to lead the world into the unknown?

This piece is written in memory of a Tuesday morning in late 2009, spent watching a matinee show after touring Stanford University, and the two fine gentleman who taught me that day not to take myself or life too seriously. I hope this brings back a happy memory.

Coco Chanel redefined the fashion industry forever (image courtesy google images)