Pearls, little black dresses, big hats, No.5. These are just a few of the fashionable accoutrements that have become synonymous with Coco Chanel. Another is tweed, and it is to this cherished fabric the maison turned when seeking inspiration for its latest high jewellery collection, Tweed de Chanel.
It is claimed that Chanel was the first womenswear designer to use tweed in collections – and once she started, she never stopped. It has become a signature of the Chanel brand; the fashion house’s spring 2020 couture collection is filled with it, with monochrome skirt suits and button-up dresses embellished with exaggerated collars.
Chanel’s fascination with the fabric was born of a love affair with the Duke of Westminster, who she met in the 1920s. She was drawn to the softness of tweed, and prided herself on being able to tell by touch alone whether the woollen fabric, less washed to preserve its softness, had been rinsed in the exact coastal river running between England and Scotland from which the fabric takes its name.
As well as being soft and comfortable, it was also practical. Tweed made an excellent material for women who wanted to drive cars, play sport, travel – as she did – so the designer lifted it from menswear and transformed it into a feminine sartorial essential.
Tweed de Chanel might not have been hand rinsed in the River Tweed, but the high jewellery collection, unveiled last month during Paris Couture Week, pays homage to this classic Chanel icon with gold and gems woven together to create pleasingly textured jewels.
The designs in the Tweed de Chanel high jewellery collection weave curb-link chains, twisted rope-like gold and delicate links with solid precious metal interludes dotted with diamond pavé, baguette-cut coloured gemstones and rows of larger diamonds in floral or bezel settings.
Brooches take the form of bows, while neckpieces look like swatches of tweed, and cocktail rings are adorned with circular cuts of this precious ‘fabric’.
Tweed de Chanel uses both platinum and white gold, sometimes mixing the two in a single design. Colour interjections come from onyx, tsavorites or pink sapphires and spinels, and pearls – another classic Chanel mascot – are also woven into the mix.
As is customary with high jewellery collections, Chanel has used some exceptional gemstones to elevate the jewels. Gems of note starring in Tweed de Chanel include a 20.4ct oval-cut imperial topaz, a 10.57ct cushion-cut spinel, a 10.2ct cushion-cut white diamond and a 10.8ct cushion-cut yellow diamond.