Coco Chanel and her famous pearls
Photo By © Lipnitzki / Roger-Viollet


Gabrielle was just 12 when she lost her mother and was then abandoned by her father. She ended up spending her teenage years with her two sisters at a Cistercian convent orphanage. Her time in this orthodox environment ironically sowed the seeds for a lifetime in fashion. Not only did she learn how to sew, but her strict upbringing in austere surroundings is thought to have influenced her future designs, resulting in the liberating style she became so well known for. The Rosary beads, crosses and chains would be the inspiration for her famous pearls and elegant jewellery to come, and the nuns’ habits were eventually transformed into her little black dress. Even Chanel’s trademark Cs are said to be inspired by the interlocking arches of the abbey’s stained-glass windows.