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Moment 6: Chanel's Arrival

Though Gabrielle "Coco" Chanel trailblazed on a number of fronts, her empire initially hinged on the use of jersey fabric, igniting the craze that followed.

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Coco Chanel in 1928

Coco Chanel in 1928.

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Appeared In
Special Issue
WWD 100 issue 11/01/2010

Few designers have made as indelible a mark on fashion as Gabrielle "Coco" Chanel. Or make that marks, plural, because the designer trailblazed on a number of disparate fronts, from fragrances to the LBD to the introduction of costume jewelry to high fashion. But while her influence and impact may be all-encompassing, one often forgets that her potent empire, now in its second life under Karl Lagerfeld, initially hinged on a simple, rather pedestrian material: jersey. Chanel's "Rapid Rise Result of Jersey Vogue" proclaimed WWD's front-page headline on November 14, 1918. According to the paper, she had close friend Geneviève Vix of the Opéra Comique to thank for this boom. It seems the designer had whipped up a collection of jersey coats before World War I, only to send it off to storage at her house in Monte Carlo once the hostilities hit in 1914. "[The jerseys] might have remained in their boxes until this day had it not been launched by no other a personage than the beautiful Mlle. [Vix]," WWD said. "[She] wore a Nattier blue jersey sport coat on the terrace one morning and later for lunch at the Hotel de Paris. Before the day was over, every woman who had seen the jersey had vowed to have one. And this was the beginning of the jersey craze." Chanel, of course, didn't stop there and went on to make fashion history in her myriad ways. As she later told WWD in 1967, "It is not good for a woman to lie idle.... She must work and keep busy."