In 1910, Gabrielle "Coco" Chanel opened a Parisian hat shop called Chanel Modes. Over the next few years, she also ventured into other retail endeavors across France, and she launched the House of Chanel in 1915 to unify her designs under one emblem. To complement its garment business, the label released its first perfume--No. 5 de Chanel--in 1921, which was so successful that it took the House of Chanel in a new direction and made it available to North American consumers for the first time. The 1940s and '50s saw a major disruption to Chanel's business because of World War II, and Coco Chanel was the subject of long-term personal controversy when she was accused of being a Nazi sympathizer.
After several years of exile from France, Coco Chanel went back to work with business partner Pierre Wertheimer--who took over most of the company's business dealings. Control of Chanel has passed through the Wertheimer family lineage for several generations, though they have paired with other major fashion icons like Karl Lagerfeld ever since Coco Chanel's death in 1971. Today, Chanel is a very high-end retailer with a worldwide presence (including more than 100 boutique locations in the United States).
Like most luxury fashion houses, Chanel offers garments in two broad categories--haute couture and ready-to-wear. Its most expensive clothing articles are designed to be one of a kind, and they are made specifically for models, celebrities, and other customers for whom money is no object. The brand's ready-to-wear clothes are still known for being very pricey, but they are produced en masse and sold at the brand's boutiques. Dresses are some of the most popular items, and Chanel has long had a reputation for its little black dresses, in particular. Other dresses are specifically designed for special occasions and will ensure that you arrive in luxury. In tops, you can find blouses, sweaters, and cardigans made from high-end materials.
Jackets are also some of the brand's most popular items, and they provide warmth while putting a major emphasis on fashion. Styles vary wildly, but some examples include leather jackets, peacoats, blazers, and more. In bottoms, options include skirts, trousers, wool pants, khakis, and jeans. Many of these items are a little more affordable and can be great for wearing to work or events. Accessories run the gamut from jewelry and watches to makeup, skincare items, sunglasses, and handbags. Chanel fragrances also continue to be top sellers.
Chanel is widely recognized as one of the most luxurious brands in the world (even when compared to other high-end labels). Its catalog of apparel spans a huge price range, though, which could potentially fit into your budget. While many dresses and jackets have price tags in the thousands of dollars, some tops and bottoms hover around $100--making them much more attainable for many shoppers. The brand's clothes and accessories are known for their quality in addition to their adherence to the latest stylistic trends. We give Chanel 4.5 stars out of 5.