Home - T Singapore

Chanel's Tumultuous Love Life At Sea – In Jewellery

By Guan Tan

 
Chanel
 

Is it perhaps surprising that Coco Chanel had a scandalous love life? She dated several distinguished men of society. One of them was the Second Duke of Westminister, Hugh Grosvenor. 

When Grosvenor and Chanel met, he was already a married man. But nonetheless, their affair unravelled speedily aboard his yacht, a grand one affectionately known as the Flying Cloud. 

To take things further, their love affair was fraught with affairs – Grosvenor was involved with other women aside from Chanel. 

ChanelThe Flying Cloud pictured in 1926, six years after Bendor bought it to celebrate his second marriage. Chanel and Bendor first dined together aboard in 1923. They got together a year later.
The Flying Cloud pictured in 1926, six years after Bendor bought it to celebrate his second marriage. Chanel and Bendor first dined together aboard in 1923. They got together a year later.

His massive inherited wealth meant that the man appeased Chanel with most indulgent of high jewellery. Grosvenor reportedly sent Chanel cases of fresh exotic vegetables, with large jewels hidden at the bottom. He would offer her uncut emeralds and strings upon strings of pearl necklaces – only to have Chanel toss them overboard into the sea. 

With every birthday that Chanel spent with him, she received a new string of pearls. Jewellery from anniversaries and celebrations that weren't thrown out were found hanging off Chanel's body. 

Jewellery was a big part of Chanel's relationship with Bendor. He would present gems and pearl necklaces as peace offerings, only to have Chanel toss them into the sea.
Jewellery was a big part of Chanel's relationship with Bendor. He would present gems and pearl necklaces as peace offerings, only to have Chanel toss them into the sea.

Chanel famously styled her English tweed jackets with chains of pearls. Her love for jewellery was etched in her companions and acquaintances' minds. Later, Grosvenor's third wife, Loelia Ponsonby recounted, "When I saw [Chanel], she was hung with every kind of necklace and bracelet, which rattled as she moved." Ponsonby recalled too, a time when she and Grosvenor visited Van Cleef and Arpels to buy jewellery, only to discover that they weren't for her. She suspected it was later gifted to Chanel. 

The affair reportedly went on for two decades. It was a formative relationship for the late designer. Here, she developed her unapologetic love for jewellery, designed the classic tweed jacket and little black dress, and changed the way the fashion world perceived jersey.

ChanelFrom left: Chanel aboard the Flying Cloud, photographed in 1926; Chanel and a friend, opera singer Marthe Davelli aboard, photographed in 1930.
From left: Chanel aboard the Flying Cloud, photographed in 1926; Chanel and a friend, opera singer Marthe Davelli aboard, photographed in 1930.

These two riveting decades in Chanel's life is now condensed in a collection of high jewellery. Aptly named the 'Flying Cloud', after the primary venue where her love affair unfolded. The high jewellery is surprisingly comprehensive. Divided into two segments – one,  the hardware elements of the yacht itself, and two, Chanel and the crew's wardrobe aboard the yacht. 

ChanelA new Flying Cloud collection by Chanel High Jewellery captures the late designer's tumultuous love affair at sea.
A new Flying Cloud collection by Chanel High Jewellery captures the late designer's tumultuous love affair at sea.

The first instalment includes artefacts aboard the Flying Cloud, such as buoys, sailors' ropes and knots, and sailor tattoos. These motifs are rehashed in white gold and yellow gold, beautifully carved into intricate ropes and tattoo badges. Blue is the primary colour, and it comes in the form of ancient gemstones, Lapis Lazuli and Sapphire

The second instalment comprises of yachting's carefree wardrobe, for instance, Chanel's nautical-striped jersey shirts are rehashed into alternating bands of Sapphire and diamonds – made in bracelets and rings. The forty-man crew aboard were decked in traditionally white and blue bibbed marine uniforms. Their large buttons are rehashed into simple cuffs and necklaces, while their blue bibs were reinterpreted into multi-layered necklaces. 

The 'Flying Cloud' is reportedly travelling around the globe. A stopover in Singapore has not been confirmed.