Vox Populi, Vox Dei is a daily column that runs on Page 1 of The Asahi Shimbun.
January 21, 2021 at 12:50 JST
French fashion designer and businesswoman Gabrielle "Coco" Chanel (1883-1971) once famously declared, "I don't do fashion. I am fashion."
The founder of the iconic Chanel brand, who died on Jan. 10 exactly 50 years ago, is remembered for her many quotable quotes, ranging from bold assertions to wistful reminiscences.
Her life has repeatedly been recounted in films and novels.
She was a young girl when her mother died and her father sent her away to an orphanage.
Upon leaving the orphanage, she found employment as an assistant to a seamstress. At 27, she opened her own hat shop.
After World War II, she came under criticism for her alleged wartime activity as a Nazi spy.
As a fashion designer, Chanel freed women from the constraints of the "corseted silhouette," raised the skirt hem and introduced jersey to haute-couture.
Voicing her distaste for people who force conformity, she cropped her hair, igniting a new trend in hairstyles.
Tomoko Tsukada, a professor at Toyo University, pointed out another facet of Chanel, namely, that she was an exceptionally gifted marketing strategist.
Even if a new creation of hers proved a total flop at home, Chanel would turn it into a big hit in the United States and reverse-import it later.
And it was sheer innovative genius that she used the number five for the name of her signature perfume--Chanel No. 5.
"She would start with an affordable product to expand her marketing network, making effective use of inexpensive materials," Tsukada noted. "With her extraordinary business acumen, she was an entrepreneur in the same class as Konosuke Matsushita (1894-1989)."
Tsukada's explanation enabled me to appreciate one of the reasons why Chanel's creations are still loved around the world today.
Here's another famous Chanel quote: "Nature gives you the face you have at 20. Life shapes the face you have at 30. But at 50 you get the face you deserve."
Chanel goods have never been part of my life. But I fell into deep self-inspection as I stared long and hard at my face in the mirror.
--The Asahi Shimbun, Jan. 21
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Vox Populi, Vox Dei is a popular daily column that takes up a wide range of topics, including culture, arts and social trends and developments. Written by veteran Asahi Shimbun writers, the column provides useful perspectives on and insights into contemporary Japan and its culture.
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