Take a look at the inside of Chanel’s glamorous Tweed De Chanel high jewelry launch in London. While Chanel is not a newcomer to the realm of haute joaillerie – Gabrielle "Coco" Chanel launched the first and only collection during her tenure in 1932 – the brand is nevertheless regarded as a fashion leader in the field of jewels.
However, as Marianne Etchebarne, global head of watches and fine jewelryproduct marketing, customers, and communication at Chanel, argues, the house's lack of heritage in the rarefied world of high jewelry is far from a disadvantage.
We spoke with Chanel at the launch of Tweed de Chanel, the brand's latest high jewelry series, in London.
We don’t have 100 years of heritage. We still have an endless source of inspiration, but not from jewelry. [ …] Not having a patrimony can be an opportunity because the page is white and you have more freedom. Patrice [Leguéreau, director of the Chanel fine jewelry creation studio] can work in so many ways. It gives freedom to investigate and create something new every season as we don’t have that baggage. We have a very special story at Chanel.- Marianne Etchebarne
That story is frequently presented via the complex prism of Chanel's powerful iconography, which ranges from Gabrielle's favorite flower, the camellia, to her star sign, Leo, and the stars and comets featured prominently in that landmark 1932 collection.
In 2020, Leguéreau praised tweed, another material that has become synonymous with Chanel. Gabrielle discovered the fabric in Scotland and used it to create her characteristic skirt suits and dresses. The tactile feel of the robust material made it difficult for Leguéreau to replicate the woven fabric as jewelry.
Tweed is a fabric that’s supple and lively, which is very comfortable when you wear it because it lives with you as you move. It’s not stiff, you have open work, and it’s soft and voluminous but not heavy. How do you translate that into jewelry, with stones and metals like gold? That was the first challenge in the 2020 collection: to interpret the fabric.- Marianne Etchebarne
While the 2020 pieces made a low-key premiere due to the coronavirus outbreak, Chanel High Jewellery devotees didn't have to wait long for chapter two. Tweed de Chanel debuted earlier this month, a collection of pieces that transformed the renowned utilitarian textile - initially worn by Scottish farmers - into "a precious fabric."
While tweed is the collection's (literal) running theme, the brilliant assortment of necklaces, rings, and braceletsalso pay homage to Chanel's rich visual vocabulary: the camellia, the star, the sun, the ribbon, and the lion.
“In this collection, we pushed boundaries because we wanted to have tweed made of diamondsand colored stones,” says Etchebarne. “So the first challenge was to find the right stones, like rubies, and then [recreate] tweed as a support to complement jewelry icons like the sun, the lion, the camellia …”
But why does Chanel, a company with successful ready-to-wear, accessories, and beauty divisions, not to mention more accessible jewelry lines like the best-selling Coco Crush, devote so much time and effort to a competitive industry like high jewelry? After all, it could easily rest on its laurels rather than investing the significant expenditure required to create one-of-a-kind pieces that take months, if not years, to build.
The two-day London event, which introduced Tweed de Chanel to the media and clients, culminated in a lavish dinner at the British Museum attended by Keira Knightley and Kylie Minogue, who also sang. That alone demonstrates Chanel's dedication to its high jewelry branch, which the company launched in 1993. Etchebarne says:
High jewelry is a very different world for us as it showcases exceptional creativity. It’s like a laboratory,. But there is a businesswith high jewelry – trust me especially in Hong Kong. In Asia, customers are very young compared to the US or Europe. I’m very surprised by the age of the customers, who buy and wear the pieces out and about also because it’s quite safe.- Marianne Etchebarne
Etchebarne feels that viewing high jewelry as something to be worn on a daily basis is essential to Chanel's appeal and the reason for the brand's loyal fanbase for its high jewelry creations. She says:
Every house has its own strength and story. Customers are not [exclusively loyal] to one house because they have a lot of temptations, but what they recognize at Chanel is the style of the pieces. They also like that we’re here to magnify the allure of women. Our pieces are not overwhelming or overpowering but are meant to sublimate the woman, which you also see in fashion. It’s never too much. You can wear our high jewelry very easily. The customer likes that it’s not for hiding in a drawer or to buy as an investment, but to be worn.- Marianne Etchebarne