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From the Margins to the Core of Haute Couture: The Entrepreneurial Journey of Coco Chanel

Cattani, G., Colucci, M. & Ferriani, S. ORCID: 0000-0001-9669-3486 (2022). From the Margins to the Core of Haute Couture: The Entrepreneurial Journey of Coco Chanel. Enterprise and Society: the international journal of business and history, doi: 10.1017/eso.2021.58


We trace the history of Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel’s entrepreneurial journey as a fashion designer from her early years as an outsider (early 1900s) to her rise to success and consecration as an icon within the French haute couture field (early 1930s)—a field controlled by powerful insiders. Our study sheds light on the social forces and historical circumstances underlying an outsider’s journey from the margins of an established field to its core. Drawing on unique historical material, we develop a novel process view that highlights the shifting influence of forces operating at different levels in the accumulation, deployment, and conversion of various forms of capital (i.e., human, social, economic, and symbolic) that outsiders need to promote their ideas. In particular, our multilevel perspective accounts simultaneously for the individual’s efforts to push forward these ideas (micro-level), as well as the audience dynamics (meso-level) and exogenous forces (macro-level) that shape their recognition. Chanel’s historical case analysis also affords a window into one of the first female entrepreneurs with global impact in business history, with the added challenge of establishing herself in what at the time was a male-dominated and mature field.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: © The Author(s), 2022. Published by Cambridge University Press on behalf of the Business History Conference. All rights reserved. This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution licence (, which permits unrestricted re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HD Industries. Land use. Labor
H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
N Fine Arts > NX Arts in general
Departments: Bayes Business School > Management
Text - Published Version
Available under License Creative Commons: Attribution International Public License 4.0.

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