COCO CHANEL – A SUPERSTITIOUS LADY WITH A LOVE FOR SYMBOLS


Coco Chanel is most famously known for her simple CC interlocking logo. As well as the iconic CC logo, Chanel’s use of symbols in her designs included a four leaf clover, Maltese cross & lions head. These symbols are more prominently found in her jewellery line, but still used within current Chanel collections by Karl Lagerfeld.

Ever wondered why they were used and why Chanel chose these specific designs? Vintage Heirloom explored the No.5 Culture Chanel exhibition in Paris, and learnt in depth information about Chanel and her historic relationship with symbols.

 

THE ICONIC CC LOGO

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Chanel was friend’s with many influential artists, poets and musicians at the time, and this helped her artistic creativity which in course changed fashion history. In 1921 Gabrielle Chanel placed a C on the wax seal of the neck of her 1921 perfume bottle. She developed this single C and evolved it into a monogram by doubling it becoming the iconic CC logo highly recognisable worldwide. The double ‘CC’ design, was inspired by the stained glass windows in the Cistercian abbey of Aubazine, the orphanage where Chanel grew up.

 

‘The remarkably simple monogram CC logo stood out like a sign of recognition’.

 

It is still debated today what the double C logo in fact stands for. At first thought you would presume Coco Chanel, but many suspect whether the iconic CC logo stands for Chanel and Capel and her lover. Captain Arthur Capel, known as Boy Capel was an English aristocrat who Coco met in 1909. They remained lovers for a decade, despite each pursuing other relationships before he died in a car accident in 1919. The interlocking C’s are rumoured to represent Chanel’s mourning for Capel to link them together forever.

 

THE MALTESE CROSS

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Chanel was a very superstitious person, therefore she surrounded herself with talismans and lucky charms. She embedded subtle signature touches to each collection encompassing her personality through specific lucky symbols. The Maltese Cross, also called an Amalfi cross, is the ancient symbol of the Knights Hospitaller. This design symbol often appears on broaches, pendants and pairs of matching cuffs, which are very collectable and extremely rare to find in the original Chanel versions. This religious icon is dotted around the Cistercian abbey of Aubazine, the place which influenced her CC logo, another strong religious memory of her orphanage days growing up.

 

THE LIONS HEAD

The lions head refers to Chanel’s star sign, as she was born 19th August 1883 under the sign ‘Leo’. Many vintage pre 1970 Chanel couture buttons featured lion heads instead of the interlocking CC you would presume, as Chanel believed in keeping her logo discreet, a design aspect which is over used and marked on nearly all products. A giant lion was used as the centre piece of the Chanel fall winter 2010/2011 show, based on one Chanel had in her Rue de Cambon apartment. Chanel’s grave in Switzerland features lion heads, five to be exact, a reference to her lucky number.

 

THE FOUR LEAF CLOVER

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The four leaf clover was one of Chanel’s lucky charms, due to its historic reputation as one. Design appeal for Chanel came from the symmetry of the four leaves. Ears of wheat sheaf are another lucky charm symbol used by Chanel, which are seen as symbols of luck and prosperity.

 

THE CAMELLIA FLOWER

The camellia flower was favoured by Coco Chanel due to its reference as the forbidden flower. When the Camilla flower is in full bloom, it is said to be symmetrical in shape, as is the four leaf clover and interlocking CC logo.

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The camellia was Chanel’s favourite flower, but it was suggested that the camellia was inspired by her memories from her youth when young elegant men – the new generation of ‘dandies’ – wore a camellia pinned to the lapels of their jackets. Chanel was very much inspired by masculine clothes, and was later influenced by the flowers worn by these men. It has been rumoured that another possibility Chanel had a love for camellia flowers was as her first bouquet of flowers from one of her lovers the Duke of Westminster was a bouquet of white camellias.

 

Chanel The number 5

Chanel symbols No. 5

 

The No. 5“Luck is a way of being. Luck is my soul.” — Gabrielle “Coco”

Was Chanel’s lucky number, which was present during the finest moments of her life. After being introduced to perfumer …… he created a range of scents for Chanel to choose from. She selected the fifth version, her lucky number, eventually calling it Chanel no.5.

The perfume was the first fragrance, which bought her extensive fame and fortune. Since its launch in 1921 Chanel no.5 continues to be best selling perfume, amassing millions in sales each year.

 

SHOOTING STARS AND CONSTELLATIONS

I wanted to cover women with constellations! With stars! Stars of all sizes!” — Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel

 

A comet also known as a shooting star has a history of wishing on it and making your wish come true. An infinitely modern symbol, the comet leaves behind a trail of the most elaborate dreams of happiness and freedom. As always, it is powerfully associated with diamonds, which were the inspiration behind the first jewellery collection designed by Coco Chanel in 1932.

 

SCISSORS

Scissors dangled from a chain necklace are some of Chanel’s cutest and rarest vintage jewellery designs Vintage Heirloom have seen. The significance of scissors was that Chanel worked with them, instead of the widely used pen and paper to design her couture fashion line. Often fabric was pinned to a house model and she would cut away at the fabric to create the silhouette she wanted until it was perfect. Part of Chanel’s daily outfit was a silk ribbon dangled around her neck with a pair of scissors hung at the end.

 

31 RUE CAMBON

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Is often seen within Chanel's past and present discreet design detailing. 31 Rue Cambon was the address of Chanel’s first stand alone store, which she bought in 1918. Chanel bought the entire building and it became a one stop for women who could purchase clothes, accessories, shows, jewellery, beauty products, makeup & perfume under one roof from Chanel. The original store remains open housing all Chanel product lines, a magnificent shop to visit if you are within Paris. Click here to read our shop report on Rue DE Cambon. Today Karl Lagerfeld head designer for Chanel uses Chanel’s apartment as his atelier, drawing inspiration for every Chanel collection.

Coco designed products with subtle yet personal detailing and messages. She loved reading into the finest detail and being surrounded by symbols was a way of life.

Concluding on Chanel’s relationship with symbols it is clear to note that Chanel was a lady way ahead of her time. Her jewellery design does not date and vintage items are still deemed fashionable if not more fashionable today than when they were released. Fashion is one thing but style cannot be taught. It is something you are born with. Chanel’s legacy lives on with Karl Lagerfeld heading the visionary direction of the Chanel fashion house. Continuing to use Chanel’s lucky symbols within fresh new collections keeps Coco Chanel’s design aesthetics alive.

Did you know Chanel’s cosmetics line started in the 1920’s and that she created the first ‘lipstick’? Look out for the next blog post with information on this!


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