Chanel – The Biggest Fashion Brand That Supported Fascism


You know her as the embodiment of French high
fashion, but Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel has more hidden in her past than she would’ve
admitted during her lifetime. Her style and design put her at the very tip
of Parisian culture, getting her in contact with the top echelon of the European elite. And yet, in spite of her associations with
composers, movie stars, royalty, and politicians, there is one connection that is often snubbed
by the history books. In this video, we’ll see how Coco Chanel
built a fashion empire that she eventually tried to leverage in service of the Third
Reich. This video is brought to you by CuriosityStream. Watch thousands of award-winning documentaries
by signing up with the link in the description. Coco Chanel was an innovative designer with
many contributions to the world of fashion and beyond: from popularizing the suntan as
a mark not of the working class, but of beauty and aristocracy to finally ending the dogmatic
century-long popularity of corsets. Her beginnings, though, were quite humble. She was born in France in 1883 in poverty
and after the death of her mother at age 12, her father sent her to live in an orphanage
for girls. That’s where she mastered sewing and after
ageing out of the orphanage, she found work as a seamstress, while singing on the side
for some extra cash. Now, Chanel was a smart woman and she was
born with pretty good looks, so considering her circumstances it should come as no surprise
that she found herself a wealthy patron very early on. Her charms captured the heart of a very rich
man: Etienne Balsan, the heir to the largest textile company in France that among other
things produced uniforms for the French army. By 1906 when she was 23 years old, she had
become his mistress and through him, she began mingling with the upper class. Two years later, Coco began an affair with
one of Etienne’s friends, an English aristocrat and she would actually play them off of each
other: they’d compete for her love by showering her with gifts and fulfilling her every wish. One of those wishes was to indulge Coco in
her dream of opening a fashion boutique in Paris, which she did in 1910 thanks to funding
from her wealthy lovers. Now, despite her patronage, Coco’s success
was a product of her own skill: her hats and dresses brought with them a unique and alluring
style that attracted socialites from across Europe. What truly kickstarted her global ascent,
however, was Chanel’s entry into the perfume business. In 1921, Coco released her first fragrance,
which you can probably recognize today: Chanel No. 5. Sold in a simple glass bottle, the perfume’s
success helped to further spread Chanel’s fame across the world. But as her ambitions expanded, Coco ran into
a problem: selling fashion items and perfume in Paris was pretty straightforward, while
selling them throughout Europe and North America was not. The capital required to build a global supply
chain and distribution network was beyond even the means of Coco’s aristocratic friends,
which is why she had no other choice, but to turn to venture capital. Her connections did prove useful: she got
in touch with Pierre Wertheimer, the owner of an international conglomerate that sold
perfumes and cosmetics in America and Europe. He was exactly the man that Coco needed, and
together they created Parfums Chanel, the company that would make Coco one of the richest
women in the world within ten years, even though she only owned 10% of the company. There was only one problem … Pierre was
Jewish and Coco was one of the most fervent anti-semitists in Paris. At first, Coco was willing to put her prejudice
on the side, since she needed Pierre’s help to establish a global business. But once things got rolling, she increasingly
started viewing him as a leech, who was unjustly benefitting from her ideas. Her views on Jewish-owned businesses were
becoming increasingly common during the 1930s, especially after Hitler’s rise to power
in Germany in 1933. Coco’s chance for revenge against Pierre
would take another seven years to emerge: in the wake of the German blitzkrieg and the
rapid defeat of France, Coco saw an opportunity. On June 14th, German forces entered Paris,
taking control of the city. Coco closed her stores, putting 4,000 women
out of work in the process, and moved in at the Hotel Ritz, because in her opinion “now
was not the time for fashion”. Officially, she declared that “now was not
the time for fashion,” but her move had different motives. The Hotel Ritz was the headquarters for many
high-ranking German officials in occupied France. It was here that Chanel would first meet Baron
Hans Gunther Von Dincklage, personally appointed as a “special attache” by Joseph Goebbels. In other words, he was a German spy. Chanel quickly fell in love with Dincklage,
and the two of them remained together for many years after the war. His associations with the Abwehr, the German
intelligence service, introduced Chanel to the Nazi war efforts. In 1941, she officially joined the German
cause to aid in their wartime plan. She became Agent F-7124, with the codename
‘Westminster’, based on her previous relationship with the Duke of Westminster. From 1941 on, Chanel was deployed to Madrid
to connect with Allied personnel under the guise of business plans. Of course, Coco wasn’t helping the Nazis
out of the kindness of her heart: she was hoping they would restore her full ownership
in Parfums Chanel under their policy of Aryanization. Unluckily for her, Pierre was smart: he had
seen the writing on the wall and had given control of the company to a Christian friend
of his before promptly fleeing to America. For several years Coco would try reclaiming
her business by collecting intelligence for the Nazis, but ultimately her efforts were
in vain. By 1944, it had become clear that the tide
of war was turning in favour of the Allies. In a last-ditch effort, Chanel was tasked
by Heinrich Himmler himself to negotiate a surrender to the Allies when Stalin’s resurgent
Red Army seemed all but certain to make its way to Berlin. Her mission was ultimately a failure, and
by the time Paris had been liberated, Coco had fled to Switzerland with Baron Dincklage. Now, after the French Liberation, 10,000 Parisians
were tried for treason. Chanel was not one of them, having only been
questioned and then released due to a lack of evidence. It is rumored that Winston Churchill personally
intervened to keep her safe, since she knew so much about the British elite and high-ranking
politicians. After the war, Chanel tried suing Pierre in
a last effort to reclaim her company. Ultimately, they came to an agreement, reducing
her stake in the company to just 2% and merging the perfume business with the fashion business. Pierre would cover all of Coco’s expenses
for the rest of her life, and he assisted her comeback to the world of fashion a decade
later in 1954. With her passing in 1971, the company became
fully owned by the Wertheimers, and to this day it is owned by Pierre’s grandsons. At the end of the day, it’s understandable
why they chose not to publicize Coco’s past: it would’ve almost certainly destroyed her
brand and harmed their profits, with little to gain if people knew of her work as a spy. Learning about the world of espionage during
World War 2 might not benefit the Wertheimers, but it’s certainly gonna be entertaining
and the best way you can do that is by watching the new documentary Spies of War that was
just released on CuriosityStream. If you don’t know, CuriosityStream is the
largest streaming platform online for documentaries, where you can watch thousands of award-winning
documentaries for just $2.99 a month. It’s a really great service and to show
you what I mean, I’ll give you a 30-day free trial of CuriosityStream if you register
using the link in the description and use the code ‘businesscasual’. Anyway, I’d like to thank you for watching
this video. I hope you enjoyed it and if you did, you
should subscribe to catch my new videos every other Friday. We’re gonna hear each other again in two
weeks and until then: stay smart.

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100 thoughts on “Chanel – The Biggest Fashion Brand That Supported Fascism

  1. And thats exactly the business every "fine" christian does today.
    Work as a programmer and fear the company sueing you for your own program coded afterwards.
    NAZIs wanted to be Jews. On the "winner" side.

  2. Plz make video about the recent worries of a "recession" and also maybe make a video that is a timeline of all previous recessions/depressions and what caused them + what we can learn from them, please keep up the great work!

  3. I think you should watch Simon Whistler's biography on her for a different narrative and consider that she could be more a pawn than player.

  4. Don’t get too excited, the company underwent the usual post-world war 2 treatment of being forced to give up everything you worked for to Jews because “nazi man bad”.

  5. Wow! What a story. Amazing what people can do for fame and glory. Backstabbing a friend who helped one rise to fame and also betraying your own country. If many knew these earlier on would’ve surely left CC in shambles.

  6. Is these facts guaranteed or is it possible that the woman got screwed over since it was the 40s, women still were property and had no say in most things back then… XD

  7. "…1:26 while singing on the side to earn extra cash…" did you mean by 'singing' as vocal engagement or operating a 'singer' sewing machine?

  8. So basically, in order to be successful, she had to be extremely attractive and sleep with two separate guys.

    Nice to see society hasn’t changed much!

  9. And then years later, she got a TV biopic, portraying her as an ahead if her time, independent genius who lost her one true love. They just took out all the racism, greed and treason.

  10. There's an amazing book about this topic which I used in my research on Chanel:
    Sleeping with the Enemy: Coco Chanel's Secret War by Hal Vaughan
    It's really impressively researched and written and a total recommendation for everyone who is interested in this topic.

  11. Most Woman in France(like in any defeated country) throw them self at the conquerer. Pure opportunist´s, therefore so useless in Releationships and Politics =)

  12. Can you imagine being a janitor, for example, whose crazy parents named you Baron Hans Gunther Von Dinklage? I mean, that's some shit you can't even make up.

  13. Moral of the story: You do business with Jews you get screwed. "How Coco Chanel got screwed by a Jew" is a more suitable title

  14. Already knew before it was even on history channel or Wikipedia. In the past, we have an extraordinary way of Liberating the truth about history.

  15. wow, i watched you since you started the channel 3 years ago bearly was above 20K subs i came to re vist and your 633K subs

  16. You should do a video on Ikea? Their history and how their business is structured would be a really interesting video for your channel.

  17. She is not good looking at all – how come all these men fall for this creature having a visage that looks more like a man then like a woman?!

  18. Thou shall not concern thyself with Nazy past of some celebrities, but instead, worry you should, about the hundreds of SOCIALIST CELEBRITIES OF THE PRESENT!

  19. 1:35 So…. seeing as you keep hiding him in your videos, I must ask. Do you plan on doing a video on the anime industry?

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