Like nearly everything else that is Chanel, it all started with a woman — Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel. While today recognised as the epitome of chic and grace, the French fashion designer’s early years were anything but glamorous. A in an orphanage by her father at the tender age of 12, it was during this time that she would learn how to sew, an essential skill that eventually lead to her life’s work as the founder of one of the world’s leading luxury brands, coveted for its timeless designs — including, of course, the iconic Chanel jacket, that today has became synonymous with that effortless Parisian-girl style.
Elegant, practical and oh-so-versatile, the Chanel jacket has come a long way to becoming the timeless wardrobe staple that it is today. Created sometime in 1954, the distinctive silhouette inspired by menswear served as a comfortable alternative to the constricting wasp waist trend that was all the rage in the fifties.
Constructed from a supple and sophisticated tweed fabric, every single aspect of the Chanel jacket was designed with the modern mademoiselle in mind. Finer details such as proper pockets, buttons stamped with the symbol of the house, and a delicate chain sewn into the silk lining to ensure that the jacket would always fall perfectly in place were considered revolutionary at the time.
It didn’t take long before the world became besotted by the allure of the Chanel jacket as it graced countless international fashion magazine covers and the svelte shoulders of some of the world’s most beautiful women.
“The hardest thing about my work is enabling women to move with ease, to move like they’re not in costume… Not changing attitude, or manner, depending on their dress – it’s very difficult. And the human body is always moving.”
The jacket remained relatively unchanged until the 80s rolled in, a dramatic time that was marked by self-expression and rapid change with women in the workforce becoming more empowered to break glass ceilings while refusing to play by the rules. It was also during this era that the inimitable Karl Lagerfeld was brought in to lead the creative direction of the maison.
“Some things never go out of fashion: jeans, the white shirt, and the Chanel jacket.”
To bring the Chanel image into the modern age, the legendary designer decided to play with the codes of the house to appeal to the desires and values of the new generation of exuberant youths, all while maintaining the aesthetic of the original design and quality craftsmanship that has become synonymous with Chanel.
Season after season, the jacket would reemerge on the catwalks reinvented to reflect the zeitgeist: Cut to the midriff with a matching skirt, paired with a crisp shirt and casual denims; covered in sequins; styled with bike shorts; and even elongated while paired with sneakers.
Following the demise of Lagerfeld in February this year, it was decided that Virginie Viard would be his successor to bring Chanel to a new age of luxury. During her first solo collection for the house at the Cruise 2020 show in Paris, the iconic jacket would appear as the ideal traveling companion for accomplished women travellers. Designed with comfort and functionality in mind, multiple variations of the jacket were presented including with and without a collar; single and double-breasted; belted with a chain interlaced with leather; and fastened with jewelled buttons.