The House of Chanel was founded by Gabrielle ‘Coco’ Chanel in 1910, the same year she opened her first boutique ‘Chanel Modes’ at 21 rue Cambon in Paris. In 1918 she opened her Couture House at 31 rue Cambon, featuring a boutique, workshops and salons. Chanel’s early designs featured simple lines, jersey fabric and leather or lace trimmings. Most were produced in traditionally masculine colours such as black, grey and navy blue. In the 1920s, she launched the first Chanel shoulder bag and the first Chanel perfume, Chanel N°5, which is now considered the most famous fragrance in the world. She also presented her first collection of powders, lipsticks and skincare products.

Although Chanel only presented one high jewellery collection, she designed high-end costume jewellery made from crystals and non-precious materials. Vintage Chanel earrings, charm bracelets, rings, brooches and pearl necklaces are treasured today for their originality and excellence in design and command high prices at auction.

During World War II, Chanel closed her Couture House and moved to the Ritz in Paris. She reopened 31 rue Cambon in 1954. Her comeback designs included the trimmed tweed Chanel suit, two-tone Chanel shoes and the quilted leather Chanel Flap Bag, dubbed the 2.55 after the date of its release. The classic Double Flap Bag with gold hardware and chain is still a must-have for every Chanel handbag collector. The House launched its Chanel 19 perfume in 1970. Coco Chanel died, aged 87, in 1971 at the Ritz in Paris.

Karl Lagerfeld took over as creative director in 1983, ushering in a new era for Chanel. He reimagined the iconography favoured by Coco Chanel, revitalised the Cruise collections and created Chanel ready-to-wear as we know it today. He also introduced the collectible Métiers d’Art handbags, the Chanel Boy Bag, the Chanel Deauville tote and the Chanel crossbody Gabrielle bag.

In 1987 the company launched its first collection of watches, followed in 1993 by the creation of its high jewellery line. The first boutique dedicated to Chanel watch and fine jewellery collections was inaugurated in 1997 at 18 Place Vendôme in Paris. After Lagerfeld’s death in 2019, Virginie Viard took over as Chanel’s creative director. She continues to combine the symbols dear to Coco Chanel with a fresh, playful touch.