Chanel’s new high jew­ellery col­lec­tion, Les In­tem­porels, cel­e­brates the en­dur­ing mo­tifs of Coco Chanel

The rib­bon, comet, star, lion and camel­lia— Em­i­lie Yabut-ra­zon ex­plores the sto­ries be­hind the five en­dur­ing sym­bols of Coco Chanel, show­cased in the house’s high jew­ellery col­lec­tion, Les In­tem­porels

Hong Kong Tatler - - Contents -

"Iwant jewels to fit a woman’s fin­ger like a rib­bon would,” Coco Chanel once said. While bows were of­ten seen in 1930s fash­ion, Chanel made them her own with a play­ful, slightly asym­met­ric move­ment. The satin rib­bons she used in her cou­ture were sup­ple and of­ten de­tach­able. It’s in the same breath that her ruban (rib­bon) jew­ellery is struc­tured—diamond-set gold wires of ex­tra­or­di­nary flex­i­bil­ity over­lap, fit to­gether and in­ter­twine around the cen­tral stone in beau­ti­ful ar­chi­tec­tural pieces.

Chanel was a trail­blazer when it came to jew­ellery de­sign. With the re­lease of her first col­lec­tion, 1932’s Bi­joux de Dia­mants, she was the first in Paris to sim­plify jew­ellery set­tings and make them lighter. She de­signed pieces where the stone wasn’t the fo­cus; rather, as in the world of cou­ture, lines and pat­terns took the spotlight. She re­cut and re­pur­posed her own jewels to cre­ate new or­na­ments, em­pha­sis­ing flu­id­ity by re­mov­ing clasps and length­en­ing neck­laces.

When she pre­sented this first col­lec­tion of jew­ellery us­ing only di­a­monds, Chanel sur­prised her con­tem­po­raries with her avant­garde style and ruf­fled a lot of feath­ers in the male-dom­i­nated jew­ellery maisons on Place Vendôme. Her bold style favoured cre­ativ­ity over os­ten­ta­tion, very dif­fer­ent from the style of jew­ellery avail­able at the time. She de­signed clasps that were hid­den to of­fer more free­dom in the de­sign, as well as flex­i­ble neck­laces that nat­u­rally em­braced the sil­hou­ette of the neck and moved with the wearer.

Chanel was of­ten cap­ti­vated by the Parisian night sky and comets in flight, which to her were sym­bols of eter­nal beauty, move­ment and free­dom. She once re­marked, “I want to shower women in con­stel­la­tions… what could be more suit­ing and more eter­nally mod­ern!” The star and the comet would go on to fea­ture promi­nently in her fine jew­ellery col­lec­tion, sparkling across shoul­ders and dé­col­letages, along with the rays of the sun and the plumage of birds.

Chanel spent seven years in a con­vent, the Abbey of Aubazine, from the age of 12; this as­cetic world inspired her sense of aus­ter­ity and her monochro­matic taste. In her 20s, she met a wealthy English­man named Boy Capel, who be­came the love of her life. Their re­la­tion­ship lasted for more than a decade and Capel’s sar­to­rial style in­flu­enced the Chanel look. He also helped the de­signer by in­vest­ing in her first bou­tique in Paris.

Chanel was dev­as­tated when Capel died in a car ac­ci­dent in 1919. Venice be­came a refuge for her in the en­su­ing years, and it was there that she was inspired by many sym­bols that came to rep­re­sent the brand. She was par­tic­u­larly in­trigued by the bronze winged lion of St Mark’s Square that em­bod­ied the city’s history and spirit. A fan of astrology and a Leo, she be­gan us­ing the lion in her de­signs, whether on the but­tons of suits or the clasps of hand­bags. She also dec­o­rated her Rue Cam­bon apart­ment with lion stat­ues and or­na­ments.

A rose with­out thorns or scent, the white camel­lia was Chanel’s favourite flower. It is said to have been the first flower she re­ceived from Capel, and it is found on the em­bel­lish­ments of sev­eral Chi­nese coro­man­del fold­ing screens that adorn her apart­ment, as well as on lamps, mir­rors and a sculpted bou­quet in rock crys­tal. From the 1920s, Chanel made the camel­lia one of her favourite ac­ces­sories, wear­ing it as a brooch on her shoul­der or in her hair. She liked to wear the flower since it had no smell, so it didn’t com­pete with her per­fume, the her­alded No. 5. Above all, it was the nat­u­ral el­e­gance of the camel­lia’s ge­om­e­try, with its al­most per­fectly round form, that led Chanel to make it her sig­na­ture. And the camel­lia shrub re­tains its leaves through the chang­ing sea­sons, sym­bol­is­ing pu­rity and long life.

Chanel’s mod­ern-day team of jew­ellers rein­ter­preted el­e­ments of the de­signer’s uni­verse in cre­at­ing this year’s Les In­tem­porels col­lec­tion of high jew­ellery. It’s name means “time­less,” and the pieces show­case the lion in neck­laces and rings in di­a­monds, onyx and white opal. The star and comet ap­pear in a watch, ear­rings, neck­lace and a bracelet set with di­a­monds and cul­tured pearls. The rib­bon is rep­re­sented in dif­fer­ent forms, mov­ing parts and vary­ing cuts of di­a­monds, while the camel­lia is show­cased in clas­sic mul­ti­strand pearl neck­laces and bracelets, with the mo­tifs out­lined in di­a­monds and black spinels. Through mod­ern pieces, Les In­tem­porels pays trib­ute to the sig­nif­i­cant achieve­ments of a woman who was truly ahead of her time.

pretty as a bow Clock­wise from left: Ruban diamond brooch and neck­lace; Con­stel­la­tion du Lion onyx ring; Camelia Ganse ear­rings; all from Chanel’s Les In­tem­porels col­lec­tion

hear me roar From top: Coco Chanel in 1937; Chanel used lion or­na­ments in the dec­o­ra­tion of her Rue Cam­bon apart­ment, and the lion be­came one of the brand’s mo­tifs

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