New Les Bl?s de CHANEL Haute Joaillerie collection. How it all began or Soul. Part 1

She is one of the most intelligent and nice women
I have dealt with, and the strongest woman I have ever met.
Winston Churchill

I am overwhelmed with quite mixed and random feelings. I have just finished studying Coco Chanel’s walk of life in search of any impressive stories that make bonds between her and wheat. The name of the latest "Les Bl?s de CHANEL" Haute Joaillerie collection translated from French means “wheat”. It is easy to guess, it was wheat that inspired the collection.

Alternatively, I have got to know she was absolutely lone. She hated doors because she hated someone leave her life. Since her early childhood when her mother died she was left by everyone dear and close to her. This is why we cannot see doors in her apartment, all of them are hidden by Chinese folding screens. I have found out she was unhappy, as many outlets describe, her fate was heavy, she was permanently struggling and seducing both men and women. However, Churchill used to say about her: “She is one of the most intelligent and nice women I have dealt with, and the strongest woman I have ever met.” Yes, she was brave, she permanently challenged the society! She was not at all afraid to be misunderstood. Her desires always dominated over her mind. She was indifferent to social conventionalities.

She spoke about herself: «I provide contrasts… which I cannot get used to: I think I am the shyest and the boldest person, the gayest and the saddest. It’s not that I am violent; it’s the contrasts, the great opposites that clash within me” (Paul Morand, The Allure of Chanel, p. 170)

Coco Chanel at the Ritz, photographer Francois Kollar, 1937
Coco Chanel at the Ritz, photographer Francois Kollar, 1937

“Monday, November 7, 1932. Her first exhibition of luxurious diamonds took place, which gave a surprising opening to the public. Gabrielle was theone who declared war against jewellery and she deprecated women who wore jewellery to make a parade of their wealth, more truly the wealth of their husbands or patrons. It is like wearing a bank cheque around the neck”, - she blew away her striking words. In her opinion, fashion jewellery is a kind of decoration or a gift to a dear person, rather than a thing that excites envy of other women…” By the way,- she clarified,- the most beautiful jewellery makes me think of wrinkles, loose skin of wealthy widows, bony fingers, death and last wills…” She was ever inventive on that score!” (Claude DeLay, Chanel Solitaire, 1983)

There was a man who inspired Coco Chanel to create first Haute Joaillerie collection. “The man was Paul Iribe, a young stylist, who would later become the author of design sketches of her jewellery, it was him who would show much ingenuity in creation of transformer- jewellery: for instance, a necklace could be easily transformed into three bracelets and a hat brooch. There had never been anything of the kind before. The success of the exhibition was so great, that the name of Chanel set the world print media into a turmoil again. Being quite conscious of her somersault, Gabrielle found it necessary to acknowledge it in the foreword to her catalogue. To be convincing she did it with all the scintillation of her wit. Please, consider: The argument that initially motivated me to invent artificial jewellery,- she wrote, - was that I found it non- snobbery, and it was in the days when luxury was a low hanging fruit. The idea changed in the period of financial crisis, when everything helped reviving instinctual drive to naturalness, which would recover the real price of the kickshaw (Claude DeLay, Chanel Solitaire, 1983)

Bijoux de diamants exhibition, photographer Andr? Kertesz for Vogue, 1933
Franges necklace, put on like tiara, from Bijoux de diamants collection, 1932

That is about what kind of woman she was! I found out that everything she used to do was in spite of, not for the sake of… Her childhood was difficult, her life was difficult and her old age was lone. “The death reached her on Sunday, January, 11, 1971 in the Ritz mansard. She hated this day of the week when she was not working, as her activities were the only reason to live. People could often see her sitting by herself on an iron chair in Palais Royale gardens under the windows, behind which she still seemed to hope seeing the silhouettes of her friends, Colette and Cocteau, who had moved out many years ago” (Claude DeLay, Chanel Solitaire, 1983)

She was constantly struggling. As a rule, in a struggle against others we ultimately struggle against ourselves, as we are scared!

That is why, perhaps, she surrounded herself with a gazillion of protective symbols and amulets: lily, paired animals, lions and wheat always filled her space. In each of the rooms of her apartment at 31, rue Cambon one can see at least a pair of lions - her zodiac sign; there are also many paired animals: camels, gazelles and frogs arranged on low and high tables – all of them are amulets, which protect against loneliness. There are caskets and jewellery boxes given to her by Duke of Westminster, the richest man of England at that time. Their exterior is made of plain metal and the inner part is pure gold. The Duke infixed his credo in Gabrielle’s mind: Genuine luxury should be hidden. Coco made a kind of philosophy out of this credo: Complex things should necessarily be combined with simple things” and something simple, like a small black dress - with lots of accessories.” Actually, white, black, beige and ivory were her favorite colours.

The apartment of Gabrielle Chanel at 31, rue Cambon
The apartment of Gabrielle Chanel at 31, rue Cambon

There are sheaves of wheat in front of the fireplace. By the fireplace, you can see a glass table resting on ears of wheat of foundry iron. Right here over the fireplace one can see a picture by Salvador Dali “Wheat Ear” 1947. The picture was painted just for Coco.

Some publications write Gabrielle Chanel and Salvador Dali had an affair for several months. Later, she would say that she did it to annoy his wife Gala. Maybe to hide her feelings and pain? I was lucky to find the letters of Dali to Gabriel in Lisa Chaney's book «Coco Chanel: An Intimate Life» - it seems he was in love.


«H?tel Ritz letterhead, dated 1938

Dearest Coco

I arrived just when you had left rue Cambon after an afternoon of colossal “gnawing pains.” Don’t forget about me! I would like to see you tomorrow morning… I will telephone you…


Dear Beautiful little Coco

I will write to you… Earlier, when Hugo told me you were clinging on to the other end of the phone, it scared me to death… and my legs were shaking a little bit… a compulsive tenderness seized my throat… After this phone call I had a… representation of your little face, there was a kind of melancholy which I had never seen before… a kind of melancholy which is probably… absolutely exclusive to you…

I give you my love. No one of us must ever die.

La Pausa



Dear beautiful little bird

… Gala [his wife] is gone… While you were here you have truly enchanted La Pausa. One gets used to not seeing this little image… One thing is certain is that our meeting is becoming very “good” and very important…

I give you all my love

Your Salvador”

Tatyana Pfaifer at the showcase of Haute Joaillerie Les Bl?s de CHANEL collection in the suite of Coco Chanel at the Ritz
Wheat Ear by Salvador Dali. Date: 1947

It was her understanding that wheat always symbolized prosperity, well- being and guaranteed her happiness, which she was so much short of: her youth and childhood were full of hardships, and she always remembered it. “A legend lives longer than a true story; the reality is miserable, and people would always prefer a beautiful parasite, named imagination, rather than reality.” “I fall about laughing when all of you recollect your childhood… You do not know what it is like to live with the feeling that you no longer have anything of your own, and you can only rely on someone else's pity” (Claude DeLay, Chanel Solitaire, 1983)

All her life she just wanted to love and be loved ... and pursued her dream in her own way.

The presentation of Haute Joaillerie Les Bl?s de CHANEL collection in the suite of Coco Chanel at the Ritz
The presentation of Haute Joaillerie Les Bl?s de CHANEL collection in the suite of Coco Chanel at the Ritz

Let us flash forward to the Ritz in Paris, July, 2016, to the suite, where Coco Chanel lived her last 37 years, and where the presentation of the new Haute Joaillerie collection “Les Bl?s de CHANEL” took place. Again, I felt heart-stricken. It was one of the most beautiful installations that touched a sore spot of my soul. Perhaps, because we were in the suite of Coco Chanel, and her spirit was still there, or because of wheat that reminded us of land and bread, but the place had the feel of warmth and sad mystery. The luxury suite overlooking Place Vendome and Ritz gardens consisted of two bedrooms, a living room and two bathrooms. All of them were decorated with wheat, jewellery and personal items of Gabrielle Chanel. Even the satiny bedspread covering a well-padded bed was taken from her home.

Tatyana Pfaifer at the showcase of Haute Joaillerie Les Bl?s de CHANEL collection in the suite of Coco Chanel at the Ritz
Tatyana Pfaifer at the showcase of Haute Joaillerie Les Bl?s de CHANEL collection in the suite of Coco Chanel at the Ritz

The ears of wheat were not only in the suite, where Gabrielle Chanel used to live, but also in Place Vendome. The Installation in the square was called Les Bles Vendome (“Vendome wheat”) and was created by Gad Weil, an artist. “My projects are aimed at touching the emotional chords of the human soul ... and here I came across a Russian lady, who was obviously a client of Chanel, judging by her outfit. She was gorgeous, important and stepped out of a large car with a driver in front of the Ritz; she asked people from Chanel to make a picture with me and suddenly began to tell me her grandfather worked on the land, he was engaged in agriculture and fed all his big family, and at that moment she was natural and sincere, all her gloss disappeared, there was only a plain human surge of nostalgia. For all her chic, she got back to the history of her family and she was proud of it. Those are aims and targets of what I am doing- to reach out to people, not governments”, - Gad Weil commented for

 To be continued in the next article...

Tatyana Pfaifer at the Les Bles Vendomeinstallationcreated by Gad Weil


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Tatyana Pfaifer

The founder of Jewellery Masterpiece