The living room of Coco Chanel’s rue Cambon apartment, which continues to inspire designs for the house  

And increasingly, Miami is one market that’s paying attention. “In the last 24 months Miami has stepped up dramatically for us,” says Barbara Cirkva, president of Chanel’s fashion division. “It was one of our first markets to rebound [after the recession], and a lot of that has to do with the South American influence in Miami today. The huge economic changes in South America, which is a highly sophisticated customer, have ultimately quadrupled our business in Miami.” Partly as a result of such growth, Cirkva notes that plans are in the works to revamp Chanel’s Bal Harbour boutique next year, with completion expected in time for Art Basel 2012—and an accompanying party, perhaps? “More on that to come,” Cirkva says with a smile.

One can’t help but imagine Contrastes feeling right at home among other installations during a December in Miami. As its name implies, the collection is rooted in design ideas that in theory might fight against one another, yet blend masterfully. The Nuage de Glace necklace drips with 409 white cultured pearls, and features a centerpiece of a seemingly rough-hewn circle covered in white diamonds totaling eight carats, which is then fastened to the pearls via slim hoops encrusted with 181 brilliantcut black diamonds. The Pluie de Cristal necklace, meanwhile, takes the idea of contrast a step further, with brilliant-cut diamonds embedded in faceted chunks of rock crystal, which are then edged in more white diamonds. The piece is finished with a waterfall of white diamonds in a mix of round and emerald cuts.

“Rock crystal is about strength, and while diamonds of course are also very strong, there is a delicacy perceived in the stones,” Comar notes. “It is by mixing the rough and the refined that you ultimately create something very strong and dynamic.”

While the Contrastes collection showcases Chanel’s love of combining the unexpected, distinctly personal details are also easily discovered. Count the number of sides on those rock crystals, for example, and you’ll quickly discern that each is a free-form octagon; the shape is meant to call to mind not only a mirror in the entryway of Chanel’s private apartment atop her rue Cambon atelier, but also the eight-sided configuration of the Place Vendôme itself. Of course, it’s not the first time the octagon has inspired: In 1924, Chanel looked at her treasured mirror and used it as the basis for the Chanel N°5 bottle shape.

   

Home is Where the Art is
Over the years, Karl Lagerfeld and others have looked to the apartment for inspiration (a shade of Chanel Rouge Allure Lacque satin lip color, Coromandel 72, even echoes the red of the Coromandel screens she favored). For past collections, Lagerfeld often has offered up references found in these rooms, from the crystal camellias that adorn a chandelier to the statue of a lion found on a coffee table—Chanel, a Leo, favored the animal—which Lagerfeld had enlarged to gargantuan proportions to use as the backdrop of the Fall/Winter 2010 haute-couture collection. And 36 hours after Contrastes’ debut, for Fall/Winter 2011 Lagerfeld would look to the Place Vendôme as inspiration, though he could not be content with merely staging the show in the square. Instead, within the confines of the nearby Grand Palais, where Chanel shows typically take place, Lagerfeld duplicated the Place Vendôme on a starry night—though his version was lined with neon lights, and instead of Napoleon I sitting atop the Vendôme Column at center stage, it was, unsurprisingly, Mademoiselle Chanel. Amid this backdrop of equal parts romance and fantasy, Lagerfeld sent out his vision for the ne plus ultra in handcrafted clothes for the Fall/Winter 2011 season, from bouclé suits featuring the peplum jackets that most recently seemed to populate every Spring 2012 runway to the Poiret-esque gowns with sleeves lovingly and painstakingly covered in hundreds of hand-placed sequins. Through the collection, one could not help but discern the mix of hard and soft, of structure and languid flow. It was no accident that Lagerfeld had titled the presentation “Les Allures de Chanel,” to drive home the point that she—and the house that bears her name—is far from a one-note prospect.

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