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Chanel’s Camellia Collection

“Gabrielle Chanel wasn’t one to fuss much over flowers. For the most part, tripping down opulent garden paths was something she left to others, embracing instead the most no-nonsense bloom around: the sober, scentless, thorn-free camellia. That move might have been a sly provocation. Until Chanel co-opted it, the camellia was more commonly worn as a man’s boutonniere. Whatever the motive, she made a habit of wearing a single white camellia against black, like a jewel. An icon was born, and its first fashion mention appeared in Vogue on May 1, 1924.” (Tina Issac-Goizé)

The Chanel 1.5 collection of high jewelry presented at the January 2019 Paris Haute Couture shows is a collection of 50 pieces all focused 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 favored 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 favorite gentlemen’s lapel-ornament of the day may have appealed to her subversive nature.

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