Friday, 6 April 2012

Coco and the Camellias

During a recent foray into the world of Camellias at the Chiswick house festival, I was reminded that Coco Chanel had an affinity with the flower and that I had seen the image repeated in the brands designs. As an avid gardener and fan of the Camellia I became intrigued as to what the connection was in Chanel's life and still in the companies brand identity today.

Further reading revealed the story of the young Coco's great love affair with the English polo player Arthur 'boy' Capel who in 1912 presented her with a romantic bouquet of Camellia japonica alba plena in the midst of their affair. It was apparently one of the the defining gestures that would carve the camelia into the heart of Chanel, becoming one of its signature designs. It is said that she considered the flower not only an enormous inspiration and the ideal addition to any outfit but being without scent it would not compete with the inimitable No.5.

Whilst on the subject of the creator of the LBD. A couple of weeks ago whilst catching up with a friend, the conversation turned to lampposts. Scintillating I hear you say, alas no ordinary lampposts but the Coco Chanel Lampposts of Mayfair.

We chatted about the affair that Coco Chanel had with Hugh Grosvenor- the then Duke of Westminster in the 1920's. Seemingly, the Duke had become so smitten by Coco Chanel that he ordered as 'a romantic gesture' all the lampposts on his Westminster estate in London be adorned with her interlinked initials painted in gold alongside an ornate W, which was his crest.

Still to this day Westminster city council is frequently asked by the fashion press if the double c's stand for Coco Chanel and they have a rather more pedestrian story to tell. Apparently the W stands for Westminster, the two C’s stand for City Council.

I see the lampposts on a daily basis but never really believed that these logos would  be connected to Chanel being in central London but I'm coming round to liking the idea that vintage romance is etched into the city's skin.


  1. Isn't all this amazing? I so appreciate a good story and you certainly have for us today. I enjoyed it very much. Carry on.....

  2. How romantic! Although she was a bit of a player.
    The camellia connection is superb, I didn't know the whole story.
    As for the lampposts, I had heard this rumour but I too didn't really believe it but the romantic in me loves it.

  3. Madame Coco certainly was a busy little bee wasn't she, surprised she had any time to be creative.
    I had no idea about camelia playing such a lead role, I just saw flowers not a particular bloom. Very interesting, its one of those things you'd assume we all know but don't!

  4. Hi Paul: Wonderful stories about CoCo. I remember many years ago a movie about her starring Leslie Caron. Probably way before your time..Happy Easter to you and your family..Judy

  5. Very interesting, I will never look at a Camellia in the same light again. I love the way you always keep your blog fresh and interesting with varied content Paul. Have a happy Easter.

  6. How cool is all this. I love camellias. How I didn't know this I have no idea. Thank you so much for my adorable Easter wreath. Aveline.

  7. Dear Paul,
    first I looked at the date - to be sure you weren't giggling 'April fool' when I dewy-eyed read your romantic description of thoses lovely lamp-posts. Then I decided: I love that explanation so much, because it makes life even more beautiful. And everything we believe in becomes a bit true. I will have to look up the Lord of Westminster. Funny: I'm invited to a meeting in Grosvenor Hall - must be the same person?
    I mentioned your posts on camellias in my new one (sorry: camellias too, but quite different). Happy Easter! Britta

  8. Such a romantic story Paul. A far better explanation than the one by the city council! Wasn't Boy the one who came to such a tragic end in a car crash? Coco did not have much luck in love...

    Wish you a Happy Easter,


  9. Thank you very much, Paul, for this fabulous and interesting post! Coco might had also Alexandre Dumas in mind when designing with Camellias??

    Unfortunately our Camellias here really suffered this winter and just started having a few flowers, but at least they survived so far. Love them.

    Again - a lovely post and romantic story.

    Happy Easter!

    1. Yes, you are so right. Dumas' Le Dame aux Camelias was surely a huge inspiration and also the beautiful Coromandel Mother of Pearl inlaid screens that she loved.
      Happy Easter Karin.

  10. I love this stuff, so interesting and I'd like everything in the first two pictures of this post please. Jem Xx

  11. Fab post. I loved the film about her and her romance with 'Boy' but didn't know this about the camelia. Lovely touch that the fabric flower didn't have sent so wouldn't compete with her perfume!

  12. LOVELY PICS:) I really like your blog and I want to follow, do you have twitter or FB??

    If you want some swedish decor inspiration, you can check out my blog:)
    Have a great week.

    LOVE Maria at

  13. Fascinating stuff. I am always so pleased to see your new posts. Always something great to read and look at. I also like that you use all your own photographs as I have just seen all those items in the windows of Sloane Street Chanel. XX