Today is February 21 and the Navigate the Chaos question to consider is “how often do you think for yourself?” Fashion designer Gabrielle (Coco) Chanel (1883-1971) said, “In order to be irreplaceable one must always be different. People laughed at the way I dressed, but that was the secret of my success: I didn’t look like anyone.” Nor did she think like anyone else.
Chanel was born on August 20, 1883 as one of five children to an unmarried couple.
Her mother died when she was twelve years old and a week later her father placed her in an orphanage where nuns raised her and taught her how to sew. She adopted the name Coco during a brief career as a cafe and concert singer between 1905 and 1908. “First a mistress of a wealthy military officer then of an English industrialist, Coco Chanel drew on the resources of these patrons in setting up a millinery shop in Paris in 1910, expanding to Deauville and Biarritz.” The two men also helped market her clothing and hats to women of society.
While women were used to wearing corset fashions, Chanel created a look that was casual and relaxed. Chanel herself dressed in men’s clothing, and adapted these more comfortable fashions which other women also found liberating. In 1922 Chanel introduced Chanel No. 5, which became one of the most popular perfumes. In 1925, she introduced the now legendary Chanel suit with collarless jacket and well-fitted skirt.
She helped women say goodbye to the days of corsets and other confining garments. Her independent way of thinking allowed her to revolutionize the fashion industry with her little black dress. She took a color once associated with mourning and showed just how chic it could be for evening wear.
As one observer noted “Most of her fashions had a staying power, and didn't change much from year to year -- or even generation to generation.” So what was the secret to her success? No secret at all really. Chanel simply thought for herself and said “The most courageous act is still to think for yourself. Aloud.”
How often do you practice the courage to think for yourself? And if you do not, can you identify what, or who, is holding you back from thinking for yourself?