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8
Coco Chanel -- Chanel
Coco Chanel made a triumphant return to fashion -- and business -- in 1954.
Coco Chanel made a triumphant return to fashion -- and business -- in 1954.

(1883-1971)

You don't have to be a fashionista to know the name Coco Chanel. Her Paris couture house, forged in the early 1900s as a single hat shop, is still showing on runways.

Gabrielle "Coco" Chanel was born poor, raised an orphan and had a singular sense of style. While designing hats for high-society women, her name was thrown around in Paris society so much she became not only a top designer but also a member of that upper crust.

Chanel closed her fashion house during World War II and reopened in 1954, suddenly finding herself in a fashion world dominated by men. But by the end of that decade, her lines were back in the spotlight, and at the end of the century, she was the only fashion icon on Time's "100 Most Important People of the Century" list.

Up next: She turned homemade skin creams into billionaire status.


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