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Luxury's 25 Most Innovative Brands: Chanel

Jill Newman

Historic brands oftenrevisit the past for inspiration, but perhaps not one does it as imaginatively as the French fashion house Chanel.While reinventing Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel’s tailored tweed jackets as glittering, femme-fatale dresses, the company is also transforming the designer’s sartorial signatures into extraordinary jewelry and watches.

More than just pretty adornments, Chanel’s one-of-a-kind jewels have come to rival those produced at the revered Place Vendôme houses. Chanel’s pieces resonate with the histories of the house and its founder: Watch faces are painted with images from Coco Chanel’s favorite Cor­omandel screens, while rings and necklaces burst with elaborately jeweled stars and camellias, which were two of her favorite motifs. The newest jewelry collection recalls Coco Chanel’s travels in Venice, Italy, in 1920, a trip that would influence her fashion designs and fragrances for decades. A recurring design motif of the collection is the lion, which is the symbol of Venice and the designer’s astrological sign.

In 2012, Chanel opened its first jewelry workshop, above its Place Vendôme boutique. There, many of the company’s most artistic pieces are made from start to finish. In 2011, Chanel introduced the Contrastes collection, which featured large rock-shaped crystals inset with swirlingpatterns of diamonds.The design creates the effect that the diamonds are floating within the crystals. Chanel also continues to invest in serious watchmaking; collectors now recognize the brand for sophisticated movements as well as intricate designs. “We reference Chanel’s patrimony, but not in a nostalgic way,” says Benjamin Comar, the firm’s international director of fine jewelry and watches. “We look ahead and create pieces that are right for these times, and beyond.” 800.550.0005, www.chanel.com

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