Inside Chanel No23 Biarritz
1915, as the world plunged into turmoil, Gabrielle Chanel continued to upheave conventions. Two years after opening a boutique in Deauville, the designer fell upon Biarritz and the Atlantic coast, a region favoured by the
1915, as the world plunged into turmoil, Gabrielle Chanel continued to upheave conventions. Two years after opening a boutique in Deauville, the designer fell upon Biarritz and the Atlantic coast, a region favoured by the Empress Eugenie, wife of Napoleon. And it was here that Europe’s aristocracy, upper classes, and artists took refuge in those troubled times.
As in Deauville, she spent her time in the company of Boy Capel, then on shore leave. With the handsome officer at her arm, Gabrielle Chanel tasted the pleasures of the ocean, its perpetual motion, its strength and energy, so similar to her own.
In a time when women were overcoming the absence of men and suffragettes were making their voices heard, Gabrielle Chanel followed her own tune and took a new and decisive step. The beaches, the sound of the waves crashing against the Rock of the Blessed Virgin, the wind in all its gentleness and violence, that particular red ochre they call basque, the villas with their architecture both simple and majestic: the designer intuitively felt that this might be a place for her. Specifically, the 19th century Villa Larralde, strategically placed near the beach and the casino. And it was in this vast mansion that she decided to open her couture house. This was the next logical step after the success of her Paris and Deauville boutiques. Encouraged by Boy Capel, she hired sixty seamstresses. It was a bold move, but thanks to Gabrielle’s talent and reputation, the world’s élégantes flocked to her and the press sang her praises. The new boutique was an immediate success.
In Biarritz, Gabrielle Chanel achieved her most important victory: to prove that she was not only a talented designer but also an accomplished businesswoman capable of creating a true fashion and luxury couture house, as well as attaining financial independence. By 1918, in Paris, Deauville, and Biarritz, Chanel employed three hundred workers, all women. As the war concluded, the world found itself once more in complete mutation: on the Basque coast, Gabrielle frequented Russian and Spanish aristocrats, and discovered other cultures, drawing from them the inspiration that would shape the Chanel style.
In Biarritz, Gabrielle Chanel proved that she owed her success to no one but herself and found her true nature: fashion designer and businesswoman. She was more determined than ever to liberate women, to allow them to dance and swim, to soak in the sun, to love, to dare, to be themselves, unconstrained by clothing or the opinions of others.
The discovery and installation of her couture house in Biarritz was a turning point: nothing would stop Gabrielle Chanel on the path to success. Step by step, with the successful launch in 1921 of her perfume N°5, followed in 1926 by her little black dress, she established her couture house as an icon of luxury. Her reputation spread far and wide, her designs highly sought by Americans and Europeans alike.
Gabrielle Chanel had become what she had chosen to be: a free and independent woman.
Discover more about Chanel- The Destinations, here.