Set sail with Chanel High Jewellery
In Roquebrune-Cap-Martin on the French Riviera, nestled midway up a winding road, sits a stunning home with a long history.
Dubbed La Pausa, the spacious abode boasts a rustic charm, its fair share of ocean views and an abundant collection of mature olive trees. Essentially, it has just enough awe-inspiring extras to set it apart — even among the formidable collection of mansions that call this monied hillside community in the south of France home.
But what really makes it special, is its previous owner. Completed in 1930, La Pausa was once the holiday home of none other than Gabrielle Chanel.
She commissioned its creation, presiding over the construction and adding her own personal design earmarks into its every nook. It then became her personal place of escape — and party venue, of course.
La Pausa left Chanel’s possession in the early 1950s, but it didn’t take long after its re-acquisition by the French fashion maison in 2015, for speculation to run rampant about when designer Karl Lagerfeld would use it for one of his extravagant fashion presentations.
But it was the company’s high jewellery division that got to it first. In late June, Chanel presented its latest collection of exquisite and extraordinary pieces at Chanel’s former home.
Titled Flying Cloud — after the four-masted yacht owned by Chanel’s companion, the second Duke of Westminster, Hugh Grosvenor — the collection features necklaces, cuffs, rings and more, crafted from materials such as white gold, pearls, diamonds and sapphires.
“The collection started a bit more than two years ago. And what’s interesting about this collection is it’s a lot of lucky coincidences,” Frédéric Grangié, president of Chanel watches and fine jewellery, says.
The timing of the collection’s design beginnings coincided perfectly with the purchase of La Pausa by Chanel. But one did not initially influence the other. Like most Chanel creations, the Flying Cloud release was inspired more by the brand’s namesake than any whim, gemstone or design idea.
“The collection originated from a picture of Gabrielle Chanel standing on the Flying Cloud, with the Duke of Westminster,” Grangié explains. “It inspired our designer and our studio because we had never explored that theme.”
One of two full collections released by the house each year, the June/July collection is one Grangié says is always closely tied to Chanel.
“It is always pushing forward, introducing new ideas, new themes — always related to her,” he explains. “As they started working on this collection, and thanks to the purchase of this property, it became obvious that we should bring it to the south of France, of course, because the Flying Cloud used to be here.”
“So, this is, in a sense, Gabrielle Chanel in her purest form here. And it’s all related to the Flying Cloud.”
Grangié described a panel hidden in La Pausa with buttons labelled with the words “Mademoiselle” and “Monsieur.” It was from here that Chanel would send telegrams to Grosvenor aboard the yacht.
“When the Duke of Westminster was coming, they would actually exchange telegrams — basically saying, ‘I’m on my way,’ ” he says. “It was a lot chicer than text messages.”
The Flying Cloud collection, which contains 62 pieces — 63 if you count a piece that was sold privately before the Flying Cloud collection was released — is split into two main themes: one that highlights the things needed at sea such as ropes and anchors, and another that focuses on the more whimsical elements, such as sailors’ uniform buttons and even tattoos.
“What we do is all about creation, it’s completely different,” Grangié says. “Who would expect a collection with ropes, anchors, sailor’s buttons?
“It clearly didn’t come from the marketing committee,” he adds with a laugh.
And it’s that level of creativity that Grangié says keeps Chanel High Jewellery customers — who are increasingly made up of young women buying the exceptional pieces for themselves — coming back for more.
“When people think of high jewellery, they think about high jewellery in a very traditional sense. It’s all about evenings and long dresses and tiaras. But that’s not the case here,” he says. “The collections are meant to be — I’m not going to say that they are meant to be worn on a daily basis — but, in a way they could be. When we first had previews of this collection, what was really amazing was the collection sold out almost instantly. The exceptional pieces were all gone.
“We had instant reactions to the collection. It was a happy surprise, of course.”
The “Turquoise Waters” necklace from the “Flying Cloud” High Jewelry collection.
Gabrielle Chanel on the desk of the Flying Cloud circa 1926.
An artisan works on gem-setting of the “Turquoise Waters” necklace on a bust in the CHANEL workshop at 18 Place Vendá·me in Paris.