Know your fashion: The unofficial love story behind Chanel’s famous logo
Thought the interlocking Cs stood for “Coco Chanel”? The French label’s iconic design might have something to do with an English aristocrat – and it’s far from the only one that used it.
Chanel’s logo is undeniably one of the most successful stories in the history of fashion branding.
Women, from adolescents to the sophisticated, long to wear anything with those interlocking Cs while men of all ages try to impress with gifts bearing that instantly recognisable symbol.
And while many think those two Cs stand for the initials of the brand’s founder Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel (Coco being the pet name given by her father), that’s not quite the whole truth.
So just how did these Cs come about? Believe it or not, it may have to do with either a sacred place or a love story.
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According to the French marque, Chanel designed the interlocking Cs in 1925 as a homage to a monastery in Aubazine, France, where she spent most of her childhood. The French designer was said to have been inspired by the geometric patterns of stained glass windows in the chapel at the monastery.
There is, however, an unofficial version of the origins of those interlocking Cs that tugs at Chanel’s heartstring. The exceedingly romantic tale has to do with a completely different phase in Chanel’s long and colourful life – specifically, her romance with English aristocrat Arthur “Boy” Capel.
Chanel’s love affair with Capel lasted a total of nine years. He shared her equine passion and is believed to be Chanel’s one true love. Her handsome and wealthy lover funded her first millinery on Rue Cambon in Paris (the store opened in 1910) and a ready-to-wear boutique in Deauville three years later.
Having found her footing in the glamorous world of fashion, she then went on to register a Couture house in Rue Cambon, before opening a “pour le sport” (for sports) boutique in Biarritz.
Capel died tragically in a traffic accident in 1919. His sudden departure devastated his fashionable French lover. Chanel later confided in her friend Paul Morand, “His death was a terrible blow to me. In losing Capel, I lost everything.”
This admission led some to believe that the interlocking Cs developed six years after his death was a nod to their heart-wrenching love affair.
Chanel was certainly not the only influential woman then to use the emblem of interlocking Cs as her symbol. French royals including Queen Claude of France and Catherine de Medici’s royal insignias were made up of double Cs. But it was Chanel who would go on to become a worldwide sensation.
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Her logo of interlocking Cs became symbolic of the changing times. On the style front, she famously freed women from wearing corsets – in the 1920s, she introduced the Little Black Dress to the fashion world, solidifying her status as one of the foremost French fashion designer.
Chanel continued to push boundaries with her iconic brand of avant garde garcon style. Blurring gender lines, she turned the rules of womenswear on its head by incorporating elements of menswear.
Through her deft designs, she offered women a taste of wearing pants, stiff white collar and starched cuffs. She appropriated tweed that was once considered a very masculine fabric, and turned it into a chic and accessible women’s jacket. She moved hemlines up to flaunt skin.
What’s noteworthy is that, as experimental as each of her moves were back then, she rewrote the rules without compromising the dignity of women. There was an undeniable air of elegance that accompanied every ballsy step she took.
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Rebels with a cause identified with her refreshingly different aesthetics. The design revolution she championed had nothing to do with shock value – instead it was aimed at freeing women from traditional sartorial shackles. Chanel was the catalyst for changing the way women dressed, championing the concept of getting dressed for comfort and practicality.
Years after her death – she died in 1971, at age 88, in her bed at the very swanky Hotel Ritz – those mesmerising interlocking Cs continue to stand for the very same fundamentals Chanel held dear – confident and current. And you wonder why women and the men continue to be spellbound by this hypnotic logo?