CHAPTER 2 The MAISON

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2.1 - THE PIECES

The Sarafane necklace and earrings are inspired by the Russian needlework that Gabrielle Chanel incorporated into her collections and named after a popular style of dress worn by Russian women. This embroidery-inspired camellia motif, crafted from diamonds and pearls, centres on the necklace around a stunning, round-cut 10.18-carat diamond, colourless and internally flawless.

2.2 - THE STORY

We cannot speak about Gabrielle Chanel’s Russia-inspired collections without introducing a character integral to their creation: Grand Duchess Maria Pavlovna of Russia. Exiled to Paris during the Russian revolution, the Grand Duchess and her brother, the Grand Duke Dmitri, would meet Gabrielle Chanel — the latter became a love affair; the former, an entrepreneurial endeavour.

The sarafane earrings and necklace

In this video, the model is wearing the Sarafane necklace and earrings

While it may not seem apparent upon first glance, the Grand Duchess Maria and Gabrielle Chanel had much in common.

A model wearing the Sarafane necklace and earrings

Both women lost their mothers when they were just girls, and both learned needlework and sewing from nuns. Perhaps most surprising and pleasing to Gabrielle Chanel was the Grand Duchess’ eagerness to earn her own way, determined to use the traditional Russian embroidery techniques she had learned in her native land as a pathway to independence.

Drawing of a CHANEL haute couture outfit with traditional Russian embroideries
A drawing of an outfit from the CHANEL Haute Couture Spring/Summer 1922 collection, featuring the traditional Russian embroidery of Kitmir.
Kitmir

Already enthralled with traditional Russian influences, and surrounded by Russian lovers and friends, Coco Chanel commissioned the Grand Duchess to create embroidery for her collections — a reinterpretation of folk motifs and traditional Russian styles, as seen through the lens of Gabrielle Chanel. This collection also marked the beginning of an exclusive partnership between the two women: an embroidery atelier called Kitmir.

Gabrielle Chanel wearing a Russian inspired tunic
Gabrielle Chanel pictured in 1923 wearing a Russian-inspired tunic of her own design - Photo W. Rehbinder © All Rights Reserved / Courtesy of Vogue Paris
Drawing of a CHANEL haute couture outfit
A drawing of an outfit from the CHANEL Haute Couture 1922 collection, featuring the traditional Russian embroidery of Kitmir.
Chanel haute couture dress - 1923
A dress from the CHANEL Haute Couture Spring/Summer 1922 collection, featuring the traditional Russian embroidery of Kitmir.

2.3 - SAVOIR FAIRE

2.3 - SAVOIR FAIRE

The Sarafane pieces are supple in structure, allowing the wearer freedom of movement. The Perlé technique creates Russian-inspired beadwork where each tiny bead of the borders is entirely fashioned by hand.