Fields of Gold: Les Bles De Chanel Transforms Marina Bay Sands
Paris, July 2016: Place Vendôme was abuzz with action, as the Ritz Paris had just reopened its doors, after being shuttered for renovations for four years. In the midst of this action was an incongruous sight—sitting in the middle of the world's most luxurious square was a field of golden wheat, setting a bucolic scene that seemed far removed from the glamorous boulevard.
The raison d'etre for this field? A warm welcome to visitors (including us) from the world over, who were invited by Chanel to view its latest high jewellery collection, Les Blés de Chanel, aka, the wheats of Chanel. The field, constructed by artist Gad Weil, was a teaser for the collection we were to discover that trip, as it drew its direct inspiration from this humble grain.
This week, Chanel brings this public artwork to our Singaporean shores against our arguably most iconic landmark—Marina Bay Sands, featuring 250,000 pieces of wheat and four months of preparation. This exhibition comes hot on the heels after showcases in Paris, Saumur (Gabrielle Chanel's place of birth), and Taiwan.
Along with the field of wheat, Chanel is also exhibiting its artworks of a precious nature: its Les Blés de Chanel high jewellery collection, which will be presented by invitation only at the following places: ArtScience Museum from February 26 to 28; and the boutiques at Takashimaya and The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands from March 2 to March 31 2018.
The French hold the symbol of wheat in high regard, associating it with abundance and prosperity. For Gabrielle Chanel, who grew up in an orphanage, the motif of wheat was so poignant that she surrounded herself with imagery of this bucolic grain.
It was this symbol that informed Chanel Fine Jewellery’s Les Blés de Chanel collection. The setting for this big reveal in 2016 was none other than the Ritz Paris, the grande dame of luxury hotels, where Coco Chanel lived for more than thirty years. In honour of its most famed resident, the hotel has dedicated a Coco Chanel suite to her memory, and this was where we were introduced to the collection, a pleasurable panorama of the 62 spellbinding jewels.
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The symbol of wheat was not simply a recurring design motif—it had a deeper, symbolic meaning that reminded one of hope and joy, of new beginnings and happy endings, of contentment and gratitude through the good and the bad. It was a fitting tribute to the designer, one made even more endearing when we were told that Gabrielle’s father would affectionately call her “my good wheat”.
By translating each phase of the wheat harvest into suites of jewels, Chanel drew a story that could well mimic the journey of its own high jewellery aspirations. In the context of its Place Vendôme counterparts, Chanel Fine Jewellery is fairly young and nascent: it began as a seedling in the early 1990s with a tribute to Coco’s first ever diamond jewellery collection in 1932. Over the years, it has sown the seeds of creativity, innovation and skill, respecting the traditional mores of jewellery-making while not being afraid of pushing boundaries and cultivating its own unique identity.
Les Blés de Chanel represented that pinnacle of Chanel’s design ingenuity and refined craftsmanship, as it was reflective of its maturity nurtured over the years. This could be seen in the way the essence of rural wheat had been distilled and reinvented, and was not simply a pastiche of bucolic memories.
Throughout the collection, there was a glorious interplay of coloured gemstones. The maison translated the faceted brilliance of peridots, aquamarines, emeralds, yellow sapphires, as well as yellow, orange, white and brown diamonds into suites of magnificent jewellery, each stone and each design carefully selected to reflect a specific phase of the harvest.
Like with its other jewellery collections, the stones were sourced to match the designs, and not the other way round.
Some of the highlights included a marvellous handful of rare, exclusive and sizeable stones, including a 10-carat Colombian emerald that featured in the Épi d’Été chapter, as well as a 25-carat yellow diamond that took centre stage in the masterpiece of this collection, the Fête des Moissons necklace.
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The latter is an expression of the exuberance that characterises the festival of the harvest, beautifully demonstrated in varying hues of yellow, arguably the happiest colour of the rainbow.
Yellow and white diamonds are set in white and yellow gold to emulate the braids of wheat. The piece is well-articulated and is more fluid than its static form would suggest; gold, instead of platinum, was used for its malleability.
The fact that the collection is still as covetable and modern today as it was two years ago is an accolade to the designers at Chanel.