Under The Sign Of The Lion: Gabrielle Chanel

Constellation du Lion Brooch. Picture courtesy Chanel Jewellery.

It is written in the stars: past, present, future, fate… Since the beginning of any civilisation, the human being has always felt interested in to look the sky, the constellations, the stars, the planets… And to give a story to them.

Maybe, for this reason, one of the older constellations recognised in the celestial maps was Leo. There is archaeological evidence that the Mesopotamians had a similar constellation in the year 4000 BCE. The Persians called it Ser or Shir, the Turks, Artan; the Syrians, Aryo; the Jews, Arye; the Indians, Simha, all them meaning “lion”.

Mythologists believe Leo represented the monster Humbaba who was killed by Gilgamesh following the Sumerian tradition. While in Babylonia, the constellation was called UR.GU.LA the “Great Lion” being its brighter star, Regulus, known as “the star that stands at Lion’s breast.” This star was also known as the King Star.

However, it was not until the Greek and Roman mythology when this constellation acquired some popularity being one of the ones associated with the Nemean Lion which was killed by Heracles (Hercules for Romans) and which was the first of the twelve labours. Since that moment, it was not only recorded by Ovid in his poems if not by Ptolemy in his astral records.

Still, not everybody in this planet saw a Lion in that group of five main stars. Through the time, people had seen a sickle, two lions: being Lion Major and Lion Minor, a Lion and a Basilisk, Xuanyuan -the Yellow Dragon-, or, why not, the Chinese Emperor Huangdi governing the four seasons, also known like Wudi, The Five Emperors or deities.

Although, what does it really mean the lion for you? What did it mean for Gabrielle Chanel?

The lion became the spirit of Chanel, her charm, her strength, power, magnificence. Adopting the number five like a lucky number. The five main stars of the Leo constellation like a symbol, totem an icon of herself and her brand.

Because not only in the design, creation or inventive are consolidated the essence of a brand. It is also in the will, strength and spirit of the person who is in charge. She revolutionised style, cannons, broke rules, reinvented fashion and liberated women. She put her surname in the constellations for to reinvent her own name Gabrielle; Coco Chanel.

So many people are confused. They believe feminism is a concept reinvented recently for a bunch of radical women when the truth is the word is new but not the revolution. The reclaim for women’s rights or a more important presence of women had been since Cleopatra’s times, old Mesopotamia and other civilisations. What it is a truth, is depending on the times, the roles of women in society had been more or less oppressed by the same ones who were ruling being in some periods of time the appearance there were no women at all in important roles.

Joan of Arc, Elisabeth I, Mary Antoinette, Marie Curie, Florence Nightingale, Queen Victoria, Jane Austin, Lotte Reiniger are just a short list of all the ones who existed in history and like Gabrielle Chanel liberated women of the cliches of the times. They created a revolution, style, new inventions or ways of thinking which changed history after them. All of them were very different but all of them had a thing in common: they were not going to accept the rules established if not to create their own. To follow their dreams and inner spirit and to be an inspiration for so many women who would follow them and who will decide to keep reclaiming the same role and options to make things than male did. It was not a sex condition for them. Neither an option of to be considered weak or strong. It was a fight for to innovate, to go forward and to create something which will improve the world.

What is inside the Spirit Chanel? What is the mystery under the sign of the lion which gives that power and strength? Like the five stars chose so long ago for the lucky sign. Today, the Spirit keeps alive in the five different ways her legacy has to show what the brand represents.

Gabrielle took risks. On times where women could not wear pants, she created that fashion trend, removing volumes, simplifying the feminine silhouette making women dress comfortable, let them ride horses like men, drive cars, work in factories… Take risks, it is one of the first spirits of Chanel:

Still, she could not break the rules in total revolutionary ways. Sometimes it is needed a bit of to break for to create but not so much because fashion is in the streets and style is inside oneself. “A woman could be over dressed but never over elegant.” Not for to have more put on her, a girl was going to be more stylish. Without knowing, the revolutionary became an icon and that respected the old, which became the other spirit: classy.

Being a rebel since their first hats and creations. Other of the habits which made her a revolutionary on those times were to use make-up. Something which had been forbidden in some circles was to wear lipstick. She used to say: “If you are sad, add more lipstick and attack.” This is why, the third Star in Chanel, is the rebellious rule breaker who do not accept conventionalism inside of her.

In the creative path, no one can deny the discovery and the will for to explore: “See the beauty in everything and make of that your work.” From the church of Aubazine, the trip to Venice, her life in Paris, her meetings with the Duke of Westminster… All of them were part of the discovery which influenced her style, which revolutionised her couture, which changed fashion. It is for that, a Chanel girl will always invite you to follow the curious spirit of to discover.

Still, not everything in Chanel’s life was easy. The tragedy followed the tragedy and after so many unfortunate events which marked her and her life, some of her creative process was full of paradoxes. In the end, Chanel became not only an important name in fashion if not a free spirit which sealed her constellation and her brand statements forever.

Five were the starts, five are, five will be. It is written in the constellations and it is what it rules the lion from its inception which leads to Chanel’s creativity. Because under the sign of the lion, it is the Spirit.

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