Gabrielle Bonheur “Coco” Chanel (19 August 1883 – 10 January 1971) was a French fashion designer and businesswoman. The founder and namesake of the Chanel brand, she was credited in the post-World War I era with popularizing a sporty, casual chic as the feminine standard of style. This replaced the “corseted silhouette” that was dominant beforehand with a style that was simpler, far less time consuming to put on and remove, more comfortable, and less expensive, all without sacrificing elegance. She is the only fashion designer listed on Time magazine’s list of the 100 most influential people of the 20th century. A prolific fashion creator, Chanel extended her influence beyond couture clothing, realizing her aesthetic design in jewellery, handbags, and fragrance. Her signature scent, Chanel No. 5, has become an iconic product, and Chanel herself designed her famed interlocked-CC monogram, which has been in use since the 1920s.
Her couture house closed in 1939, when the German occupation of France during World War II began; Chanel stayed in France, and was criticized during the war for being too close to the German occupiers to boost her professional career; one of Chanel’s liaisons was with a German diplomat, Baron (Freiherr) Hans Günther von Dincklage. After the war, Chanel was interrogated about her relationship with von Dincklage, but she was not charged as a collaborator due to intervention by British Prime Minister Winston Churchill. When the war ended, Chanel moved to Switzerland, returning to Paris in 1954 to revive her fashion house. In 2011, Hal Vaughan published a book about Chanel based on newly declassified documents, revealing that she had collaborated directly with the Nazi intelligence service, the Sicherheitsdienst. One plan in late 1943 was for her to carry an SS peace overture to Churchill to end the war.