The Chanel 1.5 collection of high jewellery presented at the January 2019 Paris Haute Couture shows is a collection of 50 pieces all focussed on Mademoiselle Gabrielle’s beloved camellia flower. The explanation of the neat symmetry of its name is: ‘one camellia, five allures’ which refers to the fact that many of the jewels can be worn in five different ways.
Few could have failed to notice that the camellia is a recurring motif in Chanel’s constant recreation of elements dear to the late Coco, who is said to have favoured the simplicity of the scentless and thorn-three camellia over other blooms for its clean-cut, all-white perfection. She was known to wear a camellia as a bright, almost jewel-like accessory against her little black dress. The fact that it was the favourite gentlemen’s lapel-ornament of the day may have appealed to her subversive nature.
The collection picks up the idea that Gabrielle wanted jewellery to be easy to wear and comfortable as expressed in this quote: ‘My (jewels) are flexible and detachable […] You can take apart the jewelry and use it to match a hat or fur. In this way, the set of jewelry is no longer an immutable object. Life transforms it and bends it to its needs.’ Gabrielle’s one and only fine jewellery collection ‘Bijoux en Diamants’ was presented in 1932, at the height of the Great Depression. A daring move and a chance for Gabrielle to bring her rebellious spirit to the most luxurious items as previously she had only designed costume jewellery. Read more here.
The collection featured diamond-set comets, lions, suns, ribbons, fringes and stars that could be worn on different parts of the body, a large articulated feather could be draped across a shoulder or worn in the hair and the jewels had no clasps or fastenings for the ease of the wearer.
Since that one collection – which incidentally was broken up and the diamonds sent back to the dealer – Chanel opened its fine jewellery division in 1993 and has since been bringing Gabrielle’s inspirations back to life. And as transformability was one of the keys of Gabrielle’s own jewels, of the 50-piece 1.5 collection, 23 of them are transformable. For example, by removing the central cluster of diamond-set petals, the Rouge Tentation ring reveals a spinel ring while the diamond petals can be added to make a small diamond Camélia brooch significantly larger. Where the fun really starts is with the necklaces. The Révèlation Diamant necklace can be worn double as a choker or as navel-grazing sautoir or with the right dress, draped down a bare back. The central diamond-set camellia can be detached and worn as a brooch or in the hair. Likewise the Rouge Incandescent necklace of nine rows of diamonds has a detachable camellia brooch with a vibrant ruby at its heart.