Coco Chanel left a legacy by creating one of the most successful brands that exist today. Her creativity and hard work contributed to her success, but let’s be honest, we probably owe some credit to her sugar daddies and lovers too.
It’s no longer rare to know someone who has a sugar daddy to help pay for their meals, cosmetics, brand-name products, and sometimes rent. Technology has enabled both young men and women to find an older, more financially stable prospect to pay for whatever they want in exchange for their company and time.
Like many sugar babies in the 21st century, Coco Chanel was known to utilize her beauty and charm to attract her rich suitors, which actually helped pave the way for the elegant and luxurious brand coveted by women all over the world today.
Coco Chanel’s Life before Fame
Coco Chanel in 1928, via Wikimedia Commons.
Gabrielle Bonheur Chanel’s childhood was full of hardships and struggles, contrary to the glamorous life she later led as a prosperous businesswoman. She was born in 1883 in France. Her mother was a laundrywoman in a charity hospital while her father sold garments and work clothes in the streets. Her father eventually had to place her in an orphanage at the age of 12 after her mother passed away.
Chanel was raised by the nuns in the orphanage where she learned to sew and became a seamstress. But making clothes wasn’t the only thing she was known for: she was also a singer at a few clubs, earning her the nickname “Coco,” thanks to one of her more popular songs titled, “Ko Ko Ri Ko.”
With Chanel’s magnetic tenacity and classically beautiful features, it only made sense that men would fall for her and even provide for her. She had many lovers throughout her life, some of whom were pivotal in establishing the famous brand and its signature products we know today.
“You can be gorgeous at thirty, charming at forty, and irresistible for the rest of your life.” – Coco Chanel
Étienne Balsan on horseback, via Wikimedia Commons.
Étienne Balsan is credited with introducing Coco Chanel to the Parisian lifestyle of luxury and beauty. Chanel was only 20 when she met Balsan, a playboy socialite and heir to a company that provided uniforms for the army. They became lovers when Chanel was 23, and she lived lavishly with him in his manor, Royallieu.
Balsan had a stable where he and Chanel would both play polo, a sport that only men commonly played at the time. Chanel would even wear pants (in an era where women were only seen in long skirts) and men’s clothes for the purpose of comfort while riding horses with Balsan. And it was through this sport that Balsan introduced her to her next lover, Arthur “Boy” Capel. Chanel ended up leaving Royallieu and moved to one of Balsan’s flats in Paris in the year 1909. They remained friends for the rest of their lives.
Arthur “Boy” Capel
Arthur "Boy" Capel, via Wikimedia Commons.
Arthur Capel, an aristocratic polo player and a close friend of Balsan’s, started an affair with Chanel in 1909 when she was 26 years old. He financed her first store, titled “Chanel Mode,” in Paris’s Rue Cambon where she started her hat-making business. She sold her hats to the rich women she became acquainted with through Balsan and Capel. Her brand grew in popularity, and she started to make other articles of clothing, most of which were inspired by Arthur himself.
But after nine years together, Arthur went on to marry Lady Diana of Wyndham, leaving Chanel heartbroken and devastated. He died a year after in 1919 due to a car accident, and the tragedy motivated Chanel to create new designs and grow her brand.
Prince Dmitri Pavlovitch Romanov
Coco Chanel and Grand Duke Dmitri Pavlovich Romanov, via Wikimedia Commons.
Chanel had a short but intense affair in the 1920s with the Grand Duke Dmitri Pavlovich Romanov, who was her junior by 11 years. He was one of the few Romanovs who escaped capture after being involved in the murder of Rasputin. The grand duke himself influenced Chanel’s Russian-inspired jewelry creations. He also introduced Chanel to Ernest Beaux, a perfumer who helped create the famous scent known as Chanel No. 5.
But the duke’s love affair with Coco Chanel wasn’t as newsworthy as his previous bisexual relationship with Felix Yusupov back then. As for Chanel, Dmitri was actually not the only duke she had a relationship with. After she ended her relationship with her Russian royal, she went on to date the Duke of Westminster in 1923.
Hugh Grosvenor, the Second Duke of Westminster
Coco Chanel and the Duke of Westminster, via Alamy.
Chanel met Grosvenor (nicknamed Bendor), who was one of the richest men in Europe, while on a trip to Monte Carlo. They settled in the Scottish Highlands, where she decorated their 20-bedroom mansion and hosted prominent guests like Winston Churchill.
Coco Chanel and Winston Churchill, via Wikimedia Commons.
Grosvenor's romance with Chanel lasted a decade, and he actually proposed to her during their time together. As expected, her response to the proposal was nothing short of iconic: “Everyone marries the Duke of Westminster. There are a lot of duchesses, but only one Coco Chanel.”
They also spent time at the French Riviera, where Chanel built a villa in 1928, said to resemble the convent orphanage where she was raised. This villa, named La Pausa, was the only home that Chanel ever owned.
Baron Hans Günther von Dincklage
After having several affairs, Chanel eventually met Baron Hans Günther von Dincklage in the 1940s, a German intelligence officer and propaganda director for the Reich. Chanel was even involved in missions for the Nazis, with her agent number being F-7124 and her code name “Westminster.” She and Dincklage lived in Paris's Hôtel Ritz, which was also where the German Headquarters were located. She continued to live there for the next 30 years until her death in 1971. Their relationship lasted for 10 years, and Chanel faced no charges after World War II despite her involvement with the Nazis.
Coco Chanel became involved with many interesting men and experienced romances that seem very film-esque, including with poet Pierre Reverdy and fashion illustrator and designer Paul Iribe. But according to the French writer Edmonde Charles-Roux, she became tyrannical and lonely during the last years of her life. She never married nor did she have any kids. But even though her relationships weren’t the kind of love stories that lasted forever, it goes without saying that they were a huge influence in helping her shape the $9 billion dollar brand into what it is today.
Regardless of the opinions many share on her character and her personal choices, her designs changed women’s clothing for the better – Coco Chanel’s craftsmanship enabled women to wear comfortable, versatile, and beautiful items that anyone would feel elegant in.
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