One of the most instantly recognizable emblems in all of Chanel’s accessories, clothing and jewelry, is the frequently recurring camellia. Karl Lagerfeld once told Vogue that Chanel has “strong icons such as the tweed jacket, the little black dress, the two-tone shoes, the camellia, that transcend time and are regularly reinterpreted”.
How did the camellia become such an integral part of one of the most, if not the most, successful fashion houses in the world?
Coco Chanel first fell in love with the camellia after reading Alexandre Dumas’ ‘La Dame aux Camélias’, a story in which the heroine always wore a white camellia, showing to the world that her heart remained pure. It was also loved by Chanel because, when wearing the flower, its lack of scent meant it never interfered with her most famous perfume – No. 5.
The camellia’s emblematic value was also important. In Eastern culture, the camellia has always remained the emblem of longevity and purity, and was thought by Buddhists to drive away bad spirits.
Chanel’s personal love of the camellia, aside from uses in fashion, jewelry, etc., is clear to see in her rue Cambon private apartment. The camellia features on chandeliers and stunningly ornate Coromandel screens – making the camellia more than just a fashion logo. Since the Twenties the camellia has featured heavily in Chanel designs – it appears regularly on the iconic little black dress, embroidered on a blouse, or simply embellished in the beading of Chanel shoes.
Similarly, the camellia also features in a range of lambskin pouches and wallets, as decoration on sunglasses, and finally in the gloriously decadent Chanel Camélia jewelry collection, totaling 72 pieces.
Source: Miranda Evans