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Robb Design Portfolio: Grand Illusion

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The House of Chanel (800.550.0005, www.chanel.com) has long been inspired by the designer’s life and legend, and its new high-jewelry collection is drawn from a particularly artistic moment: Coco Chanel’s 1925 collaboration with Jean Cocteau, when she designed the costumes for his play Orpheus. The collection, called Contrastes, was unveiled at the July haute couture shows in Paris. In a surreal presentation that might have been art-directed by Cocteau, Chanel’s Place Vendôme boutique was transformed with dramatic lighting and props, like a white staircase to nowhere, with extravagant jewels replacing actors in the spotlight. The designs, mysterious and dreamlike, explore a series of contradictory qualities: darkness and light, softness and rigidity, permanence and ephemerality. The rock-crystal-and-diamond pieces especially capture Chanel’s innovative spirit. The large, organically shaped crystals are inset with a swirling arabesque of diamonds, creating a fascinating illusion of diamonds floating within the stones. Only six of these one-of-kind pieces were created; prices are available upon request.

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