High jewellery plays a number of different roles for its creator. First, like haute couture, it is to showcase the immense savoir-faire and great lengths to which the maison will go in order to create the pieces. Second, it continues a tradition which has lasted centuries, so perpetuating the legacy of craftsmanship for the next generation. Third, it represents a paragon of value through noble materials and precious gemstones, often including the rarest specimens money can buy. And fourth, it has a magical, transportive effect on the wearer and everybody else who encounters it. In 2023’s Tweed de Chanel, the maison has checked all these boxes while also one-upping everybody else by appealing to our shared love for all things Chanel.
Weaving in the incredible story of tweed, Chanel’s iconic fabric, the collection evokes a most distinguishing moment in the maison’s history, when Gabrielle Chanel inducted this “common” fabric into her design vocabulary. Borrowing from the men’s wardrobe as she has been wont, the Mademoiselle however glammed it up by working with top quality fibres and applying her impeccable taste to create different colours and styles. In doing so she invented a modern, powerful style for women of her time. This same philosophy can be extracted from the maison’s Tweed de Chanel high jewellery, which has gone one step further, by interpreting Chanel’s signature tweed as the epitome of haute joaillerie.
Tweed de Chanel draws inspiration from the fabric as much as the story, but this time, instead of the famous Lesage workshop, the savoir-faire comes from 18 Place Vendôme—Chanel’s high jewellery workshop just a few blocks away from her famous apartment 31 rue Cambon. Instead of fibres, the craftsmen work with precious gold, but made it just as supple in order to evoke the lightness and vitality of the fabric. Then they weave pearls, diamonds and other precious gemstones of varying sizes and colours. As the second Tweed de Chanel high jewellery collection, it features a total of 45 exceptional pieces, all conceived and designed by Chanel’s director of fine jewellery creative studio, Patrice Leguereau.
Under his perceptive eye, the collection extends over five core themes all dear to the maison Chanel: ruban, camelia, lion, star, and sun. The pieces debuted in London just before the arrival of Paris high jewellery week, and the presentation space was divided into two distinctive ambiances. The first paid tribute to the beautiful Scottish countryside where the River Tweed runs its course, and the second conveys a strong modern spirit through a gallery of artful gouaches followed by a vibrant contemporary art installation suspended above the jewellery pieces. Meeting with Vogue Singapore amid such dynamic creative energy, Leguereau shares his views on the wonderful pas de deux between tweed and Chanel high jewellery.
It was really exciting also to discover that a fabric that is pretty much one of the cornerstones of the maison has managed to influence its high jewellery design. Do you see it as a continuation of Mademoiselle Chanel had started?
With the fine jewellery, I really wanted to create even more precious tweed. Because tweed is always developing, enriching, it’s always new and it’s a great source of creativity. There are different levels of the trade, different complexities, different many tweeds. For me, as a jewellery creator, I trained to create very precious tweed, even more that what was done before. Tweed made with only precious materials, precious metals, precious stones, and a very, very precise and complex technique.
What sort of research did you do before embarking on this incredible collection?
I met and I have touched, I have a piece of tweed here that was made recently for the collection. But to me, it wasn’t really research because the tweed technique is very simple. They are on the vertical and horizontal line that you see. It’s very simple. The thing is, for me, the very important thing was the touch, the feeling, and the evocation of tweed. The most important thing was to understand different type of tweed, what it evokes for us, for me, and to translate it in jewellery with the very classic techniques that we use regularly in jewellery.
Did you physically visit the tweed manufacture?
When I arrived at Chanel 14 years ago, I met François Lesage from Maison Lesage, and he introduced me the archives of Lesage. He showed me the very beautiful samples and explained to me the details, the techniques, the specificity. And that was a part of my inspiration. At that time, I really wanted to imagine creating the fabric in jewellery, very precious.
Meaning 14 years ago, you already had the idea to create tweed-inspired jewellery?
Yes, because when I entered my universe, I discovered many, many, many things in a very large universe. I took all these inside and I kept a lot of ideas and wishes for later. I took my time to develop slowly collection after collection.
Amazing! And also, from the first Tweed de Chanel collection to the second, there is a gradual move towards icons and motifs of the house. So the former collection was interpretations of tweed in high jewellery, while the second chapter brings in the favourite elements of Chanel.
I pushed everything, all the details and the points more to the limit and I developed each aspect of a piece of jewellery. The stones, the colour, the storytelling, the icons, the techniques. And so for me, it’s richer, it’s more complete collection. The first one was the introduction. It was the fabric for the fabric—and the jewellery. It was the meeting between the fabric and the jewellery as an element, a structure. The new collection is deeper and more precise about the storytelling, the Chanel universe, the icons, the stones, the symbols. And as well, I really wanted to make an evolution on the top of the structure, and to bring lightness, to work on fringes, and a variation of the fabric. The tweed could be tighter or looser. I worked on this aspect more now than on the first one.
Indeed, there could be greater variations on how tweed could be expressed in high jewellery.
For the first collection, I was very happy to have been able to realise the first tweed collection. For the second one, I really wanted to give it more and to extend the potential and the possibilities from this theme. And I want to continue. I want to do it again differently. it’s a very interesting theme because it’s timeless. It could be developed with many colours and different feelings. So it’s limitless, I think.
How did you arrive at the final selection of these five symbols of Chanel?
It was quite natural. For the last collection, I like to concentrate and structure the collection with different chapters. Last year collection, I concentrated on three chapters, the moon, the sun, and the star. For number five collection, there was five chapters. And for Tweed de Chanel, I have five chapters.
Specifically for the ruban, I noticed that it stands out a little bit more from the others in that a ribbon by itself is inanimate. It doesn’t have any form. It doesn’t really take life, so to speak, in the way that a camelia does or have that strong spirit that a lion has, or even this wishful, hopeful, inspirational ideas that come with a comet. So how did you bring that life to literally a piece of ribbon?
There are the paintings along the corridor. That was the first step of the process. I started painting the gouache. I use Chinese ink and different painting textures. I work on big and large dimension drawings with large brushers. I work on the movement and rhythm, and that was very important. That was the very the beginning. For me, I saw ribbon like a very light and very free element that could be sculpted. It was the first chapter I worked on.
Knowing what Chanel has done with tweed in the fashion divisions, it’s always a very studied approach. Tweed jackets, for example, have been crafted to sit perfectly on the body, given the trimming, the chains at the edges. So have you also paid a lot of attention to how a tweed high jewellery piece sits on the body?
This is important for each collection, each piece of jewellery to fit the body and the feeling. It’s very, very important. For this collection, it was one of the most important points that I shared with the jewellers and I asked them to have more flexible as possible for each pieces. So the pieces are very beautiful to be looked at, but very interesting to be touched as well. So I invite you to touch or to try the bracelet.
Did you do fittings?
Yes. During the process, a lot of fittings with the team regularly at different stage of the process. At the end, when the woman wears the jewellery, we adjust to fit the piece of jewellery especially on the dimension, proportion of our body. And we can adjust in the pieces smaller or larger.
The collection also debuted some chandelier-cut rock crystal as well as yellow beryls. That’s quite a dramatically new aesthetic. Can you elaborate a little bit more about that? Specific to the way that it’s custom cut, from what I understand.
Yes, it’s very special shape. Technically, it’s made possible because it’s rock crystal and yellow beryl, and any cut could be done. This is the interesting thing. With precious stones or fine stones, we can recut little bit, but not a lot. But rock crystal and beryl, everything could be done. That was the interesting point and why I chose these stones.
How does it feel personally for you, to have created a high jewellery collection that dips so deeply into something so central to Chanel as a brand? How do you feel to have created something that weaves high jewellery and fashion so deeply for the maison?
I’m very happy and very proud because for me, it’s very important to create a jewellery collection that fits perfectly within the Chanel universe. I really want to create jewellery that only Chanel can do.