From a blood-stained Chanel suit to closed stores in Russia. Discover some of the most infamous and iconic Chanel moments from their long history.

With a heritage spanning over 110 years, Chanel is a high fashion brand that has dealt with its fair share of pivotal changes and infamous moments. Gucci dealt with stormy family feuds and Prada faced dwindling interest. And there were several iconic Chanel moments that altered fashion history and caused a stir outside of the world of fashion too. As one of the most expensive designer brands in the world Chanel had its fair share of turmoil.

Here are 8 iconic Chanel moments — including the good, the bad and the infamous.

1. The debut of Chanel No 5 

A classic tale of timelessness. The No 5 scent has remained relatively unchanged for over 100 years, with only a few minimal changes to keep up with product regulations. The Chanel No 5 scent is as iconic today as it was on its debut on May 5th, 1921.

A bottle of Chanel No 5 perfume in the iconic, whisky style glass bottle. A loose line drawing of a women's face is laid flat on the table behind the bottle.
Photo by Laura Chouette on Unsplash

2. The wars

As it did for many brands, the second world war brought uncertainty, financial difficulties and closures. The story of who owns Chanel is filled with controversy and a war on two fronts. The second world war, and the war for ownership.

The brand survived the second world war by scaling back product production, but it was not without its controversies. Coco Chanel famously had disagreements and long-held bitterness with the financier who helped her create the behemoth brand.

A profile photo of Coco Chanel looking off camera. She wears her signature pearls around her neck.
Chanel headshot photo | Photo by Justine Picardie on Wikimedia Commons

3. Jackie Kennedy’s blood-stained Chanel suit 

An incredibly infamous and shocking moment in US history — the death of JFK in 1963 sent ripples of fear and confusion through the country. It’s a day that will also forever be entwined with the Chanel brand…

Jackie Kennedy famously refused to change out of her blood-stained pink Chanel suit as the new president was sworn in that evening. In defiance she kept the tweed suit on, to broadcast the horror of what had happened. She remained steadfast and calm as she stood next to vice president Johnson, as he was sworn in, in place of her husband.

Jackie climbs the steps without her hat. Her secretary follows behind, with several men in conversation at the bottom of the steps.
Jackie Kennedy climbs the stairs of Air Force One with a smattering of blood visible on her skirt | Image from Cecil W. Stoughton on Wikimedia Commons

4. Karl Lagerfeld carries Chanel into the 21st century

After the death of Coco Chanel in 1971, Chanel had an uneasy decade. In the 70s and early 80s, the Chanel brand was falling behind. An injection of creativity and confidence was needed, so in 1983 Karl Lagerfeld was appointed creative director. He pivoted the brand away from its perfume-only path, and back onto the scene as a true fashion powerhouse.

Karl stands on a table with a grey sofa behind, and am entire wall stacked with books.
Karl Lagerfeld in an extensive library | Photo by Stefan Strumbel on Wikimedia Commons

5. The flap bag

Chanel’s most famous handbag, and a well-known member of the Vogue it-bag repertoire. The Chanel flap bag has long been one of the best vintage handbags to invest in. First debuted in 1955, the original flap bag was one of the first handbags to have a long chain. This seemingly small addition of a long strap forever changed women’s fashion — allowing a handsfree and practical way to carry your belongings. All secondhand Chanel bags are consistently increasing in price year on year, but the flap bag will remain a key investment piece.

chanel double flap
A Chanel double flap handbag on Timeless Vintage

6. Chanel underwater

Every Chanel collection has been exhibited with extravagance. From the 9m high iceberg from Scandinavia to the feminist protest scene. The spacecraft launch of AW17 was perhaps one of the most extreme backdrops. However, it was the coral and underwater themed 2012 spring/summer show that is thought to be one of the most expensive fashion shows ever created.

Model Heidi Mount at Chanel SS2012 | Photo by Ed Kavishe – Fashion Wire Press / Wikimedia Commons

7. Karl Lagerfeld’s posthumous 2019 show

The Chanel 2019 Fall/Winter show was the last collection designed by Karl Lagerfeld. As he wished, there were no extravagant shows of remembrance or heartfelt memorials. There was simply a minute of silence, and small moments of emotion shown by models, friends and colleagues.

Karl Lagerfeld changed fashion history in many ways, and he will always be remembered for his critical contribution to Chanel’s success.

A profile photo of Karl with his signature dark sunglasses, starched collar, and white hair in a ponytail.
Karl Lagerfeld | Photo by Georges Biard on Wikimedia Commons

8. Chanel closes stores in Russia

With the war in Ukraine, multiple countries and brands have applied sanctions on Russia. Chanel joined brands like Hermès and Gucci and halted sales in an iconic show of support for the people of Ukraine.

The New York Times note that Russian influencers have been destroying their Chanel handbags in defiance. Ultimately though, this can only make the remaining handbags in circulation even more valuable.

Chanel in Russia | Photo by salech hcelas on Wikimedia Commons

Featured Image: JFK and Jackie Kennedy in the open-top car, minutes before his assassination | Photo by Walt Cisco, Dallas Morning News


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