Gabrielle Dorziat modelling a Chanel hat, May 1912. Published in Les Modes.


Chanel’s first foray into fashion was millinery. She rapidly made a name for herself with her contemporary designs, selling hats from her small Parisian boutique, Chanel Modes. She was also raising her nephew André Palasse after her sister passed away (although he was sent to be educated at an English boarding school). Chanel’s keen eye for simplistic elegance soon brought her recognition from the rich and famous, with trendsetting French actress Gabrielle Dorziat wearing her designs and causing a sensation amongst Paris’ elite. Her reputation grew and sales blossomed, and the ever-ambitious Chanel saw this as the perfect opportunity to grow her business; this time, into womenswear.