Gabrielle 'Coco' Chanel rose to become one of the premier fashion designers in Paris, France. Born in a poorhouse, her mother died when Coco was a young girl. Her father abandoned all of his children, and she learned to sew in an orphanage.
The name 'Coco' was a stage name, adopted during a brief career as a cabaret singer. A series of rich suitors helped her open her first shop on Paris’s Rue Cambon in 1910. Chanel's style got rid of the painful, restrictive corset from women's fashion and introduced the little black dress, simple suits, costume jewelry, fabulous shoes, and of course, perfume.
During World War II, the Nazi occupation of Paris forced her to close her doors, and she became a nurse. Following the war, she was accused of being a Nazi spy and moved to Switzerland for several years, but started a new business in 1954 and built her iconic fashion empire.
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