The House of Chanel chose the “années folles”, the foolish year of the onset of the century as their source of inspiration for their showcase at the Paris Biennale, emphasizing the era’s social, artistic, and cultural dynamism. The Café Society collection and the brand’s booth designed by Peter Marino both celebrated the philosophy of this age and Coco.
“Café society was the collective description for the so-called “Beautiful People” and “Bright Young Things” who gathered in fashionable cafes and restaurants in New York, Paris, and London beginning in the late 19th, early 20th century. Lucius Beebe, noted American author, journalist, and gourmand is generally credited with creating the term “café society,” which he chronicled in his weekly column, This New York, for the New York Herald Tribune during the 1920s and 1930s.”
Coco “Gabrielle” Chanel was widely known to have had an eventful and interesting life and was part of the turn of the century’s exciting buzz. Instead of family, she was surrounded by artists and writers, including Igor Stravinsky, Serge Lifar Ukrainian dancer and choreographer, Sergei Pavlovich Diaghilev (Director of the Ballets Russes), writer, diplomat, academic Paul Morand, Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dalí, Jean Cocteau. Her lover was Arthur Edward “Boy” Capel, English polo player, and she was the girlfriend of Hugh Grosvenor, Prince of Wales for 6 years. Coco had great influences and lived through numerous experiences which she ingeniously planted into her creations.
In addition to a diverse life and travels, Coco needed her own world and objects that she liked to surround herself with. She moved into the Ritz Paris at the start of the 1930s. Her furniture – including her beige suede settee with its quilted cushions and her folding screen made from lacquered Coromandel were also brought along. During the day she spent her time at the 4-floor apartment at Rue Cambon 31. The Chanel store is still at street level, haute couture dressing rooms are on the second floor, her apartment is on the third, and her workshop remained on the fourth.
There are several elements in the apartment that now have an iconic status, including the the cream carpeted staircase with the faceted wall of mirrors from which she famously viewed the collections – and the audiences’ reactions, the Coromandel folding screens, Camellia flowers, lion sculptures and motifs, the smell of Chanel No. 5 and the famous “Orient meets Occident” design.
Jewellery presented at the Biennale
Pieces dedicated for the show
The style marks and motifs of the “roaring twenties” and Coco’s favourite objects are also reflected in the jewellery. The pieces designed for the Biennale showcase four cosmopolitan cities in various seasons. The autumn in Shanghai is reflected by yellow and red lacquer, granite, as well as white and yellow gold. The mood of the French winter is evoked by white gold, pearls and Ceylon sapphires. Chanel started to build a new life in Venice after the loss of her love Boy Capel. The Venetian spring also symbolizing rebirth is celebrated with diamonds, calibrated emeralds, sapphires, tsavorites and aquamarines. The “Summer in New York” necklace in 18 Carat white and yellow gold is set with a 5.8 Carat emerald-cut yellow diamond, baguette and trapeze cut diamonds and 114 fancy-cut multicoloured sapphires.
The Place Vendôme was always a big inspiration for Chanel, both in the case of her perfume bottle and jewellery. The Vendôme rings represent a few favourite things of Coco, the lion, the camellia, and the stars.
The bird cage in Coco’s sitting room served as inspiration for Chanel’s “Coco” perfume campaign, featuring a French icon of today, Vanessa Paradis. This time the bird cage was interpreted into an exceptional and unique piece. It features fine watchmaking, sculpture, mother-of-pearl marquetry, and stone-setting; different craftsmanship highlights this collector’s item. “The Bird Cage” clock in 18 Carat white gold is set with brilliant-cut diamonds in a total weight of 61.5 carats, tsavorites, sculpted moonstone, sculpted pink quartz, rock crystal and grey and white mother-of-pearl.
Oh, those twenties!
Chanel showcased the entire Café Society collection at the Biennale, many pieces of which have debuted at previous events, such as the preview at the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées during the Paris Fashion Week. You can hear the vibes, see the architectural structures and get lost in the patterns of the age in these masterworks collectively.
The set called Sunset represents the soft blushing and powdery hues of a setting sun, with Padparadscha sapphires (these rare stones are delicate light to medium toned pink-orange to orange-pink hued sapphires), diamonds, pink and white gold. Sunset also includes a headpiece in line with the fashion of the 20s. The Sunrise bracelet is more chunky, with bright colours and sharper shapes, warm yellow gold, red lacquer and diamonds.
The play of light on the iconic octagon of Place Vendôme inspired the ”Morning in Vendôme” necklace. It has an emerald-cut 12-carat yellow diamond as a centerpiece, and brilliant-cut white and yellow diamonds highlighted by carved onyx.
The popular dance and music of the era, the Charleston and the Jazz are also celebrated on jewellery sets with white gold, white diamonds and black spinels.
Round shapes and bold straight lines were popular in the 20s, which is reflected on the diamond-onyx Bubbles necklace.
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Photo credits: Chanel, Loupiosity.com.
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