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Coco Power

July 31st, 2009
05:36 PM ET

Coco Chanel. How important was she? Did she have more impact than most world leaders?

I don’t know much about fashion but I did learn how powerful it is today. I went to a regular high street store in London with a fashion expert for the programme. He showed me how in almost every corner of the shop you could find something linked to Chanel; a little black dress; a tweed jacket; the trim on a cardigan; a rack full of fake pearl necklaces; a dark toed-shoe. All these things were either inspired by, or popularised by, Coco Chanel … decades ago. It is fascinating to me that most women in the western world probably have at least one thing in their wardrobe that they think of as classically simple but is, in fact, classically Chanel. It could be nothing more than the cut of a collar but there it is, tucked away in the outfits of millions of women as they go about their day. That means Chanel affected the lives of most women in the western world and many beyond. It may be cosmetic but it also affects the way they feel. How many world leaders can claim to have had such a widespread, and lasting, impact on humanity? Just a thought …

Your comments below, please! We'll read the best ones out on air tonight at 9pm London time.

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soundoff (14 Responses)
  1. Manuel Nino

    This is quite a remarkabel story, when most people think of history of of important figueres that made an impact of history they neglects to go over women. While not of paramount importance the action of the different madams during the Vienna Conference of 1814 impacted the moods and feeling of the different negotiators. Clothes on the other hand not as important, but the connection is thier for all to see.

    July 31, 2009 at 6:46 pm | Reply
  2. Jennifer Ryan

    I read her biography many years back and was fascinated by her role in WWII, she travelled to meet secretly with German leaders and tried to meet Churchill to propose a peace plan, no one Ever talks about THAT!

    July 31, 2009 at 6:50 pm | Reply
  3. WaiLeng Petersen

    What a profound story! I would personally be very interested to know if Giogio Armani would also touch that mark 50 years from now.

    July 31, 2009 at 8:05 pm | Reply
  4. Pedro Lazaro

    I think the legacy left behind by Madame Coco was paramount for she left us with the so called correct way to dress. And guess what, we are still dressing this way. Her story is without a doubt provocative, compelling and the house of Chanel still can rock the boat of fashion big time, this thanks to Karl Lagerfeld.

    July 31, 2009 at 8:34 pm | Reply
  5. kirk washington

    News casters making fun of Detroit Mi unemployment is low down this could be you jobless all it takes is the new station closing down and just like that your one of us.Every company in Detroit Mi is hit hard by fast growing unemployment.

    July 31, 2009 at 10:09 pm | Reply
  6. David Maddocks

    Coco broke through the exagerated fashion of European aristocracy to breathtaking simplicity. "Simplicity is the keynote of all elegance," she famously stated to Harper's Bazaar in 1923. She was the first designer to have her name linked to a perfume – CHANEL No5. Her fame spread through the quality and notoriety of her clients, including many film stars. Her life also continues to fascinate us, as a truly modern woman.

    July 31, 2009 at 10:53 pm | Reply
  7. Priscilla White

    I truly admire because of her daringness and visions. She liberated women from the corseted clothing, encouraged them to sunbath on the beach in bathing suits, told them it's okay to wear comfortable clothes made of cheap fabrics and have the mobility of a man!

    July 31, 2009 at 11:02 pm | Reply
  8. Joshua Moore-Oliva

    While her impact on fashion was significant, comparing it to the impact of world leaders is, in my opinion, ridiculous. World leaders affect economies, the market (whose conditions were amenable to her business), wars etc. Had world leaders acted differently in the past, coco chanel may not have ever worked in fashion in the first place.

    August 1, 2009 at 1:31 am | Reply
  9. 'Milla Charles

    This is a nice salute to COCO CHANEL. Independent thinker. Independent woman. Her career is a perfect example of CRITICAL THINKING.

    August 1, 2009 at 2:34 am | Reply
  10. Muthyavan.

    I have no knowledge at all about the impact of fashion on humanity today,but many women in the past had created a big impact on history in time to time,around many countries of the world. Many of them are very simple, but very attractive like Cleopatra of Egypt or wife of Mao Tish Tang of Red China. Even in modern history the first lady of France who rose up to stardom as a fashion model has created history.

    Even in private life history was created in India when a Bandit queen Phoolan Devi who was terrorising villages in central Indian hills became a MP in the central Parliament when government announced an amnesty to all outlaw bandits. There was many women in history like Johan of Arc, Philippine's late president Aquino who created history in fighting for the freedom and welfare of masses and not by attraction of their beauties.

    But attraction and beuities or the right dressing also plays a major role in today's life in getting their best partner in life or the right highly paid job in the most competitive world.

    August 1, 2009 at 6:00 pm | Reply
  11. Tony Fan

    What is the timeline for getting our troops out of Afganistan? It wasn't that long ago when our politicians were running on the ticket that "change was needed" and the Iraq War needed a timeline for withdrawal. So I ask, why are we sacriicing lives in Afganistan, and when will this sad and tragic excuse for a war end? Really, can anyone articulate this war's purpose for US involvement; and do we have definitive and reachable outcome goals? What are they? List them, please. Easier yet, ask the President at the next beer bash.

    has a date been set? Why not?

    August 2, 2009 at 9:39 pm | Reply
  12. Omar

    There was a time back in the days when the powerful elite associated with chanel 5 as a mark or identity of their influence..men were more prone to use it, I thought it was only for women though, still dont know wether it was for both sexes.. yes she definately was an identity for the rich and powerful.

    August 5, 2009 at 3:33 pm | Reply
  13. RH

    oh come on you all..a glass of champagne or 2 ,sleeping around..would give even you a good eye for fabric..she slept her way to the top

    August 7, 2009 at 9:07 pm | Reply
  14. 'Milla Charles

    Sleeping her way to the top was the easy part.
    The ability to remain on top and influence millions of women -even after she is dead- takes a special talent.
    The reality is that every time a professional woman gets dressed in the morning for work, Coco Chanel is responsible for the way her clothes look and fit. This is an undeniable fact, just ask Hillary Clinton. Her pants suits are influnced by Coco Chanel.

    August 10, 2009 at 5:06 am | Reply

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