Accessory… and yet, at CHANEL, it is essential to the signature of a silhouette. Its name is a paradox. The mark of an attitude, the accessory according to CHANEL is a stroke of brilliance, an audacity, a game, often a mischievous irreverence. Accessorising to emphasise a dress or a jacket, to light up a neck or a wrist, to veil the gaze, to increase the mystery. Gabrielle Chanel, followed by Karl Lagerfeld, pushed the need for this object of desire to its very paroxysm. Invented, renewed, shaken up, minimalised or maximised, diverted from its initial function, the accessory according to the two designers has become a serious art form.
From her beginnings as a milliner in her Parisian boutique, opened in 1910, Gabrielle Chanel always had a taste for the accessory. A paradox, almost, given the understated outfits she wore both day and night, little black dresses, trousers and striped sailor tops, tweed suits. From the accessory she fashioned a signature that was more than personal, it was unique. By inventing this style of accessory, this art even, the designer revealed her sense of the avant-garde, unified with a lucidity and a faultless flair.
Her decision to dress women in black by imposing the little black dress from 1926 gave Gabrielle Chanel the freedom to fully explore the territory of accessories, transforming a powder compact into a minaudière, knotting a silk handkerchief around the wrist, wearing a scarf with studied nonchalance, all gestures never seen before. Breaking the codes, making her daily life sublime, without ever appearing to “wear one’s strongbox”, that was the secret of Gabrielle Chanel. A secret she enriched with her passion for costume jewellery: pearl sautoirs, crosses in bronze and rock crystal, hammered bracelets, multicoloured cabochons…
Seizing the present while anticipating the future, not to mention sketching it out. When she created her first iconic bag for the House, the famous 2.55, Mademoiselle Chanel blended purity and practicality, sensing women’s desire for independence. The lines are crisp, the clever details numerous, from the garnet-red lining to make it easier to find one’s belongings, to the secret pockets both inside and out, like the one for a lipstick, which the designer never left home without. But it was the chain strap that really changed everything: liberating gestures, it prioritised movement instead of encumbering hands. Her two-tone pumps, with black toe caps to make the foot appear smaller and camouflage any water marks, pay just as much attention to comfort. Gabrielle Chanel gave attitude to objects conceived with sense and for a precise reason, making brilliantly obvious fashion statements.
The accessory according to CHANEL has conquered all women. Every generation dreams of their own, often desired in multiples, sometimes transmitted, like a gift among those “who understand” its utility, its beauty, its subtlety. Karl Lagerfeld has added an indefinable ingredient that transforms it into a vital fashion accessory, meticulously thought out, always useful and with a dose of mischievous humour each season. With him the classic bags of the House have adopted hundreds of guises: the iconic quilted leather is accompanied by precious skins, aged leathers, velvets, tweed, embroidered or not, with knits, denim, sequins and even PVC. From his mind have come the latest must-haves, with previously unseen ways of being worn and attitude. Among them, the CHANEL Boy cuts to quick with an androgynous elegance, CHANEL’s GABRIELLE bag has fun with its multiple ways of being carried while the backpacks have established their pedigree with a sporty spirit of casual chic. As for the sophisticated minaudières, these resin boxes adopt the features of playful objects, to be worn and exhibited for sheer visual pleasure. The tote bags, camera cases, shoppers and enlarged overnight and weekend bags all translate the air du temps of today and tomorrow. In its own way each one illustrates an immediate need, anticipating the next necessity or the next desire.
The designer has also made Gabrielle Chanel’s fetish camellia into a recurring motif, an eternal flower to be embroidered, printed or transformed into jewellery. From the couturier’s milliner past that she herself referenced by sporting little hats to match her suits or turbans artistically knotted, he has taken the boaters and little veils, the hats and caps that he adds like playful punctuation to highlight a gaze rather than hide it. Transparent, in tweed, in denim, in tulle, or embroidered, the hat is once again a major accessory, never superfluous, always noticed for its singular and personal elegance. A CHANEL signature brimming with lightness and joy.
The CHANEL legend has been reborn thanks to Karl Lagerfeld’s pencil. It is enriched and renewed season after season. The two-tone slingback has led to new pumps with black toe caps, available in all fabrics and all heights, cleverly combining timelessness with instant desire. Sneakers, sandals, espadrilles and boots have added a note of delight and daring youthfulness. Disrupting established conventions and codes to imagine new ones, always going further creatively without ever losing sight of intention and pertinence, that is the genius of Karl Lagerfeld.
Layers of jewellery, bags worn in accumulation, glimpses into the history of the House and inventions nourished by new technologies, Karl Lagerfeld has turned the CHANEL accessory into a medium for unlimited creativity. His all-encompassing vision, rigorously coded yet unclassifiable, blows an innovative wind, each time surprising and unexpected, always highly desirable. Allure, spirit and freedom: three words that resume the power and eternity of the CHANEL accessory.