From Russia with love: Chanel’s 2019 High Jewellery collection
‘The Russians fascinate me,’ Gabrielle Chanel remarked. ‘It is the Russians who have taught women that it is not dishonourable to work.’
Strands of Russian culture weaved through her art and life; as perfumer to the Imperial court, the Muscovite Ernest Beaux created the N°5 scent, while Chanel enjoyed an intense relationship with the Grand Duke Dmitri Pavlovich, cousin of Tsar Nicholas II. Her friendships with Stravinksy, Diaghilev and the dancers of the Ballets Russes are also well documented. Chanel was inspired by them all. Diaghilev, in turn, was drawn to the nascent designer, engaging her to create the costumes for his ‘Le Train Bleu’ production. Both had an appreciation of traditional peasant costume, from fur-lined cloaks and socks to bold-hued embroidery.
A Russian aesthetic pervaded Chanel’s apartment on the rue Cambon, too; an ornate mirror decorated with the two-headed eagle of Imperial Russia sits at the heart of the it. The mirror has been replicated in miniature, as a signature jewel from the Le Paris Russe de Chanel High Jewellery collection, revealed in Paris today.
The collection is a heady confusion of imperial Russia and Russian folklore. The elaborate kokoshnik traditional headdress, usually made in in velvet, is translated into a trellis of diamonds laced with pearls. The bright roubachkas – vividly embroidered worker blouses – are reflected in draped necklaces of yellow sapphires, garnets, emeralds and diamonds. A favourite symbol of Chanel’s, the ear of wheat, is cast in diamonds, while the folksy motifs of peasant scarves and fabric are reappropriated in ogive cuts on head ornaments, or striking pearl sautoir necklaces. And so we are presented with Chanel’s Russian love affair rendered in jewels. §