‘Fashion changes, but style endures,’ such were Coco Chanel’s thoughts when the brand borrowed her name. ‘Chanel’, was every bit of Gabrielle, and it emanated from her style, confidence, elegance but most prominently, her experience. Such was her everlasting experience of Camellias, blossoming in every phase of her life as they do in every season.
Camellias, flowering silky white petals bearing both innocence and purity with a geometric temptation worked a charm on Coco. These flowers met her pleasure for the first time when she saw a stage performance, ‘Le Dame aux Camellias’ (The Lady of the Camellias) by Alexandre Dumas. She was mesmerised by Sarah Bernhardt’s leading role who always wore a Camellia manifesting her pure heart.
Although an odourless flower, a bouquet of Camellias by her beloved, Boy Capel was scented with love. That was probably the first time the flowers touched a part of her heart where they eternally stayed and then were plucked and quilted into immaculate Camellias for Chanel. Grievingly, Boy Capel reportedly lost his life in a car accident on his way to meet Gabrielle.
Love strikes in one an inspiration that is both eternal and timeless for feelings slip themselves so effortlessly in creativity. Intertwining Camellia petals with one another, she must’ve thought of her love, caressing the spaces with the warmth that escaped from her.
Masculine suits delighted Coco’s eye. She beheld that the men from the West attach Camellias on their coat lapels, an act that pronounced their refinement. With the inspiration of masculine silhouettes, she took the flowers for her designs.
In 1913, she adorned the Camellia on her waistband which was her first picture wearing the flower while she was on a beach in Étretat, Normandy. In 1923, these flowers began to compliment the black chiffon dresses tailored by Chanel.
A flower without its fragrance is almost like Chanel without its Camellias. To Coco, this was an irony for she believed every woman possesses her own fragrance and the unscented flowers only respected that. The flowers also never interrupted with the signature scent of Chanel, No.5.
An unchallenged beauty to the eye, the Camellias deepened the Chanel experience. The Chanel No.1 skincare range was crafted from the rich red Camellia extract and repulsed ageing. Serums, creams and mists imbued with the rare red petals made women confide in the products. A youthful excitement and soft nourishment with organic protection therapeutically unfurled on the skin and gave a woman her teen touch.
Karl Lagerfeld treasured the tradition and rebirthed the Camellia, giving it a different life with every design. Delicately embroidered with 4000 Camellias and woven with the memory of Gabrielle, he presented his bridal collection in the Autumn-Winter collection of 2005.
Embracing the ramps and walls of Chanel boutiques, the flowers first hung elegantly on the chandelier in Coco’s Cambon apartment in Paris. On diamond-quilted bags and on Chanel boxes tied with luscious black ribbons, these flowers gave a sense of completeness. Pinned on black ensembles, the glistening diamond Camellia brooches enchant every glance. In tweed, organza or satin, praised with rubies, pearls and diamonds, the Camellias continue to celebrate the fondness of Gabrielle Bonheur Chanel.