Case | HBS Case Collection | November 2011 (Revised April 2016)

Coco Chanel: Creating Fashion for the Modern Woman (A)

by Mukti Khaire and Kerry Herman


Chanel, the iconic haute couture house, founded by Gabrielle "Coco" Chanel in 1913, came to embody its founder's philosophy, taste, and style and set a distinctive and influential tone for women's fashion. Coming to prominence during the height of cultural modernity in the 1920s and 1930s, Chanel's designs wrapped high and low cultural references into beautiful yet practical clothing and jewelry for women of Europe and the Americas. In their articulation of clean, classic lines, her designs set a standard for women's fashion and clothing, relevant from 1910 through to the 1960s. She created several iconic but understated staples of many women's wardrobes, such as her signature cardigan and suit, the quilted handbag with a chain-link strap, which left its wearer's hands free, and "the little black dress," all of which continue to be part of women's wardrobes today in some shape and form. Chanel died in 1971 leaving the future of the brand and its leadership uncertain.

Keywords: fashion and creative industries; apparel manufacturing; Business History; Business Growth and Maturation; Management Succession; Entrepreneurship; Business Startups; Brands and Branding; Fashion Industry; Apparel and Accessories Industry; North and Central America; Europe;


Khaire, Mukti, and Kerry Herman. "Coco Chanel: Creating Fashion for the Modern Woman (A)." Harvard Business School Case 812-001, November 2011. (Revised April 2016.)