Born Gabrielle Bonheur Chanel in 1883, the fashion icon was orphaned with her five other siblings and looked after by relatives.
In the early 1900s Chanel earned the name Coco during her brief career as a cafe and concert singer.
Her outspoken manner was not the norm for an early 20th century woman.
Chanel caught the eye of many men but never married or had any children; instead she stayed devoted to the world of fashion.
Dating a wealthy military officer, Étienne Balsan and an English industrialist, Arthur "Boy" Capel she was able to fund and set up a hat shop in Paris.
Coco later expanded her work to haute couture, creating clothes for women that were fashionably liberating. Chanel replaced corsets and long dresses with separate pieces then considered ‘mannish clothes’.
Serving as a nurse during World War II and Nazi occupation halted the development of her fashion business.
A new start
After the war ended fashion was dominated by Balenciaga and Dior fashion houses. Chanel returned to Paris and decided to expand her designs to casual wear, handbags and jewelry which helped to restore her rank at the top of Parisian fashion.
Coco held the position of "Chief Designer" at Chanel until she died in Paris, in early 1971 aged 87.