Coco Chanel revolutionized women's fashion in the early 20th century when she introduced a looser, more comfortable silhouette that freed women from the corsets and frills that had dominated the apparel industry. Born into poverty in Saumur, France, Chanel worked as a cabaret singer before opening a hat shop in 1910 with financial backing from a lover. She soon turned her attention to clothing and became the first designer to create with jersey a cheap fabric used in men's underwear at the time and bring a menswear aesthetic to women's clothing. Chanel's tweed blazer and skirt, two-toned ballet flat, little black dress, costume jewelry, and quilted bag with chain strap remain staples in the fashion pantheon, even as contemporary designers and labels introduce reiterations of them season after season. In 1923 she launched Chanel No. 5, the first foray by a fashion designer into fragrance. She closed her shops in 1939 at the beginning of World War II and did not return to fashion until 1954, when she debuted bell-bottom pants. Chanel died in 1971. Karl Lagerfeld has served as head designer of the house since 1983.
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