The joy of inversion animated the work of Gabrielle (Coco) Chanel, the eminent 20th-century couturier who never encountered a convention she didn’t want to subvert. Gender, especially, fascinated her. Liberating women from corsetry — putting them in trouser suits, chemises, short skirts and sporty leisure wear — radically advanced the course of modern feminism while making Chanel an international icon.
But reimagining the shape of women’s clothing, and thus their silhouette in the world, was only one aspect of her revolutionary spirit: By purloining traditional men’s wear fabrics, she entirely upended notions of women as decorative and pliant. Tweed, developed as a humble workingman’s cloth in Scotland in the 1700s and adopted a century later by the duck-hunting English upper class, ranked among her favorite textiles. In the 1950s, she introduced the nubby skirt suit in Linton tweed, variations of which are still a signature style of the house that bears her name.
Now, Chanel has developed a new 45-piece high jewellery collection that uses an interwoven articulation of precious metals and stones to evoke the earthiness of that material. With a cascade of white and yellow diamonds in an encyclopaedic variety of cuts and sizes, these dangling earrings conjure the informal, unpretentious warp and weft that captured the designer’s renegade imagination so many years ago.
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