CELEBRATING A TRAILBLAZING FASHION DESIGNER AND A NAMESAKE BRAND THAT STILL BEGUILES MORE THAN A CENTURY SINCE ITS FOUNDING
By Rhonda Reinhart
Fashion changes, but style endures.”
–Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel
Gabrielle Chanel, otherwise known as Coco, influenced fashion in ways too numerous to count. From creating the first designer perfume and designing the first shoulder bag to pioneering the little black dress and elevating costume jewelry to high style, Chanel revolutionized the way women dress and accessorize time and again.
What began in 1910 as a hat boutique in Paris has become a global brand revered for its understated and modern designs. “Everyone loves Chanel, from Jackie O and Princess Diana to Lady Gaga and Serena Williams,” says Diane D’Amato, Heritage Auctions’ Director of Luxury Accessories, Private Sales & The Boutique. “Today, Chanel bags and vintage jewelry are in greater demand than ever before.”
That everlasting adoration is why, for the first time, Heritage’s Luxury Accessories Spotlight Auction will focus solely on Chanel. The July 20 event features jewelry, bags, accessories and more from the powerhouse brand, including a trove of vintage jewels, handbags in a rainbow of hues and even a limited-edition Chanel chess set.
In conjunction with the auction and in celebration of the inspirational life, work and iconic style of Coco Chanel herself, we present highlights from the event paired with quotes from the outspoken designer known as much for her candid quips as her innovative creations.
“A girl should be two things: classy and fabulous.”
The name Coco Chanel is synonymous with understated luxury and sophistication. But that doesn’t mean her designs lacked flair. “Sometimes subtle, sometimes edgy, but always sublime – that’s Coco Chanel,” D’Amato says. “She strongly believed that women should have the chance to express themselves in every way possible, including through their clothing, jewelry and bags.” This black quilted leather Westminster flap bag, with its pearl chain strap and double-C pearl logo, is as classy and fabulous as they come – just as Mademoiselle Coco would expect.
“The best color in the whole world is the one that looks good on you.”
Though Coco Chanel famously favored black over all other colors, she knew that the right hue for her might not be the right hue for you. Here, the color green grabs attention in a vintage necklace adorned with delicate pearls and a collar of Gripoix leaves. “This is one of my favorite pieces,” D’Amato says. “It is truly wearable art.” A quilted leather mini bag in a similar summery shade is the ideal complement to the nature-themed necklace.
“Simplicity is the keynote of all true elegance.”
“There’s no piece of jewelry that epitomizes Coco Chanel more than layers of strings of pearls,” D’Amato says. “In fact, Chanel’s faux pearls single-handedly revolutionized fashion jewelry by making them just as desirable as the real thing.” This multistrand faux natural pearl and pink Gripoix necklace, finished with aged gold hardware and looking like something Audrey Hepburn might have donned in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, is modern yet timeless – and, yes, simple and elegant.
“Dress like you are going to meet your worst enemy today.”
Lions loomed large in the life – and designs – of Coco Chanel. Born on August 19, 1883, under the sign of Leo, she never missed an opportunity to incorporate the powerful cat into her creations. Even the buttons of her trademark tweed suits were engraved with a lion’s head. “I’m a Leo and like him, I show my claws to protect myself,” the designer once said. For those feeling equally leonine, this lion brooch and lion head bag are sure to turn the heads of friends and foes alike.
“You live but once; you might as well be amusing.”
Lions weren’t the only recurring motif in Coco Chanel’s collections. She was also enamored with white camellias. She began wearing silk versions of the flower with black dresses, and soon the blossom became a signature of her designs, embellishing bags, apparel, shoes and jewels. In this bloom-centric bracelet, the camellia is crafted from 18k rose gold and finished with a sparkling 0.13-carat diamond.
“In order to be irreplaceable, one must always be different.”
Truer words have never been spoken, and Coco Chanel should know – as she was most certainly one of a kind. The whimsical pieces offered here – a blue resin On the Moon CC minaudière with rainbow hardware and black tweed vanity case with multicolor rhinestones and faux pearls – will stand out in any crowd.
“Fashion has two purposes: comfort and love. Beauty comes when fashion succeeds.”
When it comes to weekend bags, there’s nothing more comfortable than a roomy tote. So what’s not to love about this casually chic blue denim Deauville tote from Karl Lagerfeld’s 2013-2014 collection? Chanel’s artistic director from 1983 until his death in 2019, Lagerfeld breathed new life into the brand while building on the beauty Coco Chanel first created so many decades earlier.
“A woman with good shoes is never ugly.”
Coco Chanel’s many contributions to the world of fashion included freeing women’s footwear from its formerly monochrome constraints. With the introduction of the two-tone pump in 1957, Chanel created a new classic. Today, the look has been reimagined in sandals, boots, espadrilles and more – and immortalized in accessories such as this colorful cotton scarf.
Highlights from Heritage’s July 20 Chanel-only auction will be on view July 11-13 at its Beverly Hills location (9478 West Olympic Boulevard, 1st Floor) and July 18-19 at its New York City location (445 Park Avenue). For more information, contact Diane D’Amato at 212.486.3518 or DianeD@HA.com.
RHONDA REINHART is editor of Intelligent Collector.