Today, August 19, marks the birthday of the late and great Mademoiselle Coco Chanel. To honour the legend, who would’ve been an almighty 132 years old if still alive, we look at some of the wisest words to come from one of the most pioneering women in history.

Born Gabrielle Bonheur Chanel in 1883 – she earned her nickname Coco while working as a a singer at Moulin Rouge-style cafes. Coco, as she will forever be affectionately know, learned how to sew after being sent to a convent by her father, when she was 11, following the death of her mother. 

ca. 1926 --- Coco Chanel (1883-1971), the French fashion designer, ca. 1926. --- Image by © Hulton-Deutsch Collection/CORBIS

Coco Chanel

Hers is true rags to riches tale. A woman who defied odds and social conventions and built not only a brand but also a legend. She famously freed women from the “corseted silhouette,”which was a style standard in the post-World War I era. Expanding from fashion her aesthetic extended to costume jewellery, quilted bags and, of course, perfume with the still ever popular Chanel No. 5

At the height of her career in the 1920s she was running four business enterprises. It’s no surprise a painting of the late French fashion designer attributed to Andy Warhol recently sold for US$247,000 on August 8 by Stevens Auction Company in Aberdeen, Mississippi. She is an icon that never left us.

A forward thinking entrepreneur and feminist, Coco, who passed away aged 87 in 1971 at the Hotel Ritz in Paris – her home for more than 30 years – was also a famous for her outspoken speeches as her design. In honour of the great Mademoiselle Gabrielle, here are our favourite Coco Chanel quotes:

1. “A girl should be two things: classy and fabulous.”


2. “In order to be irreplaceable one must always be different.”


Happy Birthday Gabrielle Coco Chanel, 10 quotes

Coco Chanel with Jacques Chazot, a French dancer and socialite

3. “I am not young but I feel young. The day I feel old, I will go to bed and stay there. J’aime la vie! I feel that to live is a wonderful thing.”


4. “As long as you know men are like children, you know everything!”


Happy Birthday Gabrielle Coco Chanel, 10 quotes

Chanel showing off a newly designed dress

5. “Don’t spend time beating on a wall, hoping to transform it into a door.”


6. “Look for the woman in the dress. If there is no woman, there is no dress.”


Happy Birthday Gabrielle Coco Chanel, 10 quotes

Coco Chanel hunting with Sir Winston Churchill

7. “Dress shabbily and they remember the dress; dress impeccably and they remember the woman.”


8. “Some people think luxury is the opposite of poverty. It is not. It is the opposite of vulgarity.”


Happy Birthday Gabrielle Coco Chanel, 10 quotes

Author Pamela Smith with Coco Chanel

9. “Men always remember a woman who caused them concern and uneasiness. I’ve done my best, in regard to people and to life, without precepts, but with a taste for justice.”


10. “You live but once; you might as well be amusing.”


Coco Chanel's home at Hotel Ritz in Paris

Coco Chanel’s home at Hotel Ritz in Paris


Images: Corbis