Monday, March 23, 2009

Fashion DNA: Seeing Stars at Chanel

This blog has been very Chanel-centric in recent days. Excuses: a) in terms of pure fashion history, between Coco and Karl and all the hangers-on in-between, the well never runs dry, and b) a little mystery got solved this weekend and I couldn't resist stirring the old girl's bones once again.

You may recall those archaic times of Spring/Summer '08, when Lagerfeld covered his runway with a star print, which was subsequently adopted by Kate Moss for her 30th birthday dress and, along with the gold glitter star with which she painted her face, spangled all over the style headlines.

At the time the motif seemed peculiar. Stars? Of course the house had long associations with camellias, lion's heads, pearls, and the ubiquitous cross-backed "Cs", but this was a new one. Apparently likewise for the small army of fashion editors covering the shows, who promptly ascribed the motif to a newfound American patriotism on the part of Herr Lagerfeld.

Then as now, this seemed a most unlikely story. Thanks to a lucky discovery of an old copy of Jewelry By Chanel in a great old used bookstore in the neighborhood, the truth can finally be told. It may even be a scoop, though it is such ancient history in chronological and fashion years (ratio approximately 1 : soooo totally over) that I'll settle gratefully for keeping it entre nous.

In the 1930s, Coco Chanel teamed up with Basque jewelry designer Paul Iribe to create a line of luxury baubles for her clients. As ever, she wanted to do it her way. In 1932, she said:

"My jewelry represents first and foremost an idea! . . . I wanted to cover women with constellations. With stars! Stars of all shapes and sizes to sparkle in their hair, tassels and crescent moons. See these comets, their heads resting on a woman's shoulder, their shimmering tails slipping behind the shoulders to fall in a shower of stars on the breast . . . "

Americana! Nope, a bit more universal than that. Karl must had a good old laugh, all the way to the bank.

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