“Fashion is not simply a matter of clothes. Fashion is in the air, born upon the wind. One intuits it. It is in the sky and on the road.” – Coco Chanel
September is Fashion Month. As New York City comes down from NYFW madness, we shift our focus to the fashion capital of the world: Paris.
Many iconic artists and innovators have long flocked to Paris, and for good reason—the city has been the epicenter of the biggest cultural and artistic movements in modern time. Ever the trendsetters, Parisians have that certain je ne sais quoi; a cool factor that transcends time, language and gender.
Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel is one of the most significant Parisian tastemakers, and she continues to impact and shape the world of design. One of the most influential sources of creativity for Chanel—and what helped shape her vision of the modern woman—was the city of Paris itself. We take you to some of the most important spots in Chanel’s Paris, and share how they impacted her aesthetic.
31 Rue Cambon
Chanel decorated with intention and symbolism. She had a lot of items surrounding her in the apartment that became a part of her design aesthetic, or would later influence the brand. For example, she had an obsession with camellia flowers and always had them around her apartment, which symbolized purity and longevity in Asia. Now dubbed “The Flower of Chanel,” the camellia is almost as ubiquitous as the double C’s.
At a time when design styles and origin were not being mixed, Chanel’s apartment was a fusion of East meets West. She loved antique 18th century Coromandel lacquered screens, crystals and lions (her astrological sign was a Leo). All of the books in Chanel’s library were wrapped in deep red leather, the exact shade that would one day become her signature red lipstick. Her use of black lacquer and sumptuous, tan suede inspired us to create the J9 Lounge Chair—our homage to Coco Chanel.
Though her apartment was her home, Chanel never slept there. Perhaps it was because she grew up poor—or maybe just because she could—but each night, Coco laid her head to rest at The Ritz.
Every night, she walked 5 minutes from 31 Rue Cambon to The Ritz. Her stunning suite was, of course, of her own creation. She brought in her own furniture, and eventually re-decorated it completely. Via Ritz Paris: “Coco Chanel was intimately linked to the Ritz Paris and she decorated her Suite herself. In her world, luxury is all grace and refinement, a reflection of her love for Asian lacquer, gilded mirrors and the pairing of black with white. The Ritz Paris became her home.”
After living at The Ritz for more than 30 years, she passed away there in January, 1971 at 87. Her suite is “preserved intact” and available to stay in for 25,000 per night.
The Ritz sat on Place Vendôme, a prestigious square built in 1702 by the same architect that built Versailles, Jules Hardouin-Mansart. It’s now home to the haute storefronts of Paris’ biggest fashion houses and lavish apartments. The true center of Parisian luxury, Place Vendôme was so influential to Coco that she designed her iconic Chanel No 5 bottle cap after the octagon shape of the square.
Creative Director and Chanel protégé Karl Lagerfeld said, “Chanel and Place Vendôme are very linked. She lived in the Ritz, now there is a jewelry shop…it’s very Paris, there are many photos of her on the Place Vendôme.”
Chanel’s Love Affair With Luxury
Chanel had immaculate taste and a penchant for the finer things in life. She defined a new standard of luxury, her brand becoming synonymous with femininity, elegance and sophistication. The opulent places where Chanel spent most of her time in Paris helped to shape the aesthetic that would become one of the most significant luxury brands of all time.
As Chanel herself once said, “The best things in life are free. The second best are very, very expensive.”