Chanel Flying Cloud, a touch of Riviera chic
The modernity of the Flying Cloud collection comes from integrating unexpected maritime-inspired motifs into a high jewelry line.
Haute Couture Fashion Week in Paris last week was the occasion for Chanel to unveil its new high jewelry collection titled Flying Cloud, named after the yacht on which Gabrielle Chanel had cruised as a guest of her lover, the glamorous English aristocrat, Hugh Grosvenor, second Duke of Westminster, whom she had met in 1923 in Monte Carlo.
The French Riviera, a luxury yacht and the blue waters of the Mediterranean provide the perfect backdrop for the Maison Chanel to evoke a new chapter in the life of its founder as inspiration for this new high jewelry collection. The just-in-time-for-summer extravaganza plays on Mademoiselle Chanel’s more rebellious side, providing what the head of Chanel’s watches and jewelry, Frédéric Grangié, described as an “element of surprise” in high jewelry pieces that nevertheless rest on exceptional stones.
Inspired by Chanel’s trips aboard the four-mast, white-decked yacht with its “piratical black hull,” the collection is a 63-piece rhapsody in white and blue, the colors of the Mediterranean where the Flying Cloud broke waves all year long, with motifs borrowed from the delightful images that a seafaring adventure can offer up in the shape of tattooed sailors, knotted ropes, and white buoys against a background of blue waters.
Coco Chanel onboard the Flying Cloud, 1926
A more private showing of the collection for friends and VIPs had been organized a week earlier at La Pausa, the house overlooking the sea that Mademoiselle Chanel had once owned in Roquebrune. Bendor - as the Duke was known to his friends - was a frequent guest, along with a circle of chic Riviera bohemians, in the monastically simple and elegant house Mademoiselle Chanel had built on the hills above Cap Martin, near the Italian border, its staircase a replica of the one she often climbed as a child in the orphanage at Aubazine Abbey. The property, since sold, was repurchased by the Maison Chanel in 2015 and restored to Coco Chanel’s original specifications.
Mostly based on diamonds, white pearls and blue sapphires, the Flying Cloud collection presents an ensemble of 63 pieces, of which ten one-of-a-kind, and three high jewelry watches. “Navy and white are the only possible colors,” Gabrielle Chanel wrote after her first trip aboard the luxury yacht, according to Justine Picardie in her biography, Chanel Her Life.
The maritime-inspired motifs, well-known in the repertoire of Chanel, give the collection a “sporty” feel that recalls a fascination with the striped marinières of the fishermen in Deauville whom Gabrielle had discovered years earlier in the company of her then-lover Arthur “Boy” Capel. She applied the same motifs in 1924, the year she and Bendor officially became an “item,” in the costumes she designed for Sergei Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes in a production of Le Train Bleu by Jean Cocteau, where the crisp, blue and white stripes of the ballet dancers’ garments recalled the uniforms of the 40-member crew of the Flying Cloud.
“The driving theme of this collection is cordage,” said the Maison Chanel, in reference to a new “rope” motif previously unseen in the repertoire of the house. Still, it is the motif that provides the necessary masculine ingredient that is ever-present in Chanel’s studied conception of an easy, feminine chic.
The endlessly knotted rope is found in the “Azurean Braid" watch in 18k white gold set with 658 brilliant-cut diamonds, its loops of pavé-set diamonds intertwined with while-gold metallic rope.
Azurean Braid watch © Chanel
The "Sapphire Stripes" watch in 18k white gold set with 11 marquise-cut blue sapphires and 248 brilliant-cut diamonds also adheres to the strictly maritime color scheme in an asymmetrical design that evokes the loosening of a nautical rope knot.
Sapphire Stripes watch © Chanel
Finally, the “Yachting Day” pendant watch brings together a timeless combination of pearls and diamonds. Set on a string of Japanese cultured pearls forming a long pearl necklace, the transformable pendant watch allow the piece to be worn as a bracelet or Y-shaped necklace, depending on the winds or the whims of the woman wearing it. The piece is also a knowing nod to the ropes of pearls the Duke would give Coco Chanel each year, while their romance lasted, on her birthday.
Yachting Day pendant watch © Nazanin Lankarani/WorldTempus
The modernity of the Flying Cloud collection comes from integrating unexpected motifs - cords, tattoos and sailor’s knots - into a high jewelry line. its freshness is that of the sea breeze in late afternoon cruising along the Côte d’Azur.
Through her life, Gabrielle Chanel embodied strength, character and a fierce desire for independence. Maison CHANEL, avant-garde and constantly innovative, has come down through the decades to become an unmistakable symbol of distinction, elegance and refinement.Find out more
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