Coco Chanel loved camellias. And, so do I. She favored them in white and turned them into a recognizable branding phenomenon. The white bloom is both simple and elegant and fit her artistic aesthetic perfectly. Certainly, Coco was the ultimate arbiter of good taste, but a girl loves what a girl loves. I must humbly state my case for the pink camellia: everything is pretty in pink!
The camellia plant is an evergreen. It typically flowers late winter into early spring. So, as we approach the end of the season, I thought I’d share a few of my favorite gifts from the garden.
My life is a very good one. My gardener lives with me! Meet the man who brings me flowers. Up to this point, he’s only agreed to have his hand featured on my site.
Tell me, dear reader, do you love the camellia? White or pink?
Even a brief visit to a museum tells the story of the close relationship between artists and flowers. In fact, the memory of some painters has become entwined with the blooms they admired. We will forever associate Vincent Van Gogh with the sunflower, Georgia O’Keeffe with the poppy and Claude Monet with the water-lily.
But, painters are not the only creative people to draw inspiration from the garden. French designer and business woman, Gabrielle Chanel, loved the beautiful, short-blooming camellia or Chinese rose. Nearly 50 years after her death, it is still one of the most instantly recognizable emblems in all of Chanel’s accessories, clothing and jewelry.
How did the camellia become such an integral part of one of the most successful fashion houses in the world? It is thought that the Madame became entranced with the flower after reading Alexandre Dumas’ ‘La Dame aux Camélias’ (The Lady with the Camellias) as a young girl. The heroine of the story always wore a camellia. The flower’s symbolic value was also important to the designer. In Eastern culture, the white camellia represents purity and longevity. Coco also appreciated the fact that the camellia is without scent, and, as such, didn’t interfere with the perfection of her signature scent, and my favorite perfume, Chanel No 5.
I’ve always loved fashion and recognized designers as the artists they are. I do not live a haute couture lifestyle, but my admiration for Chanel’s style aesthetic has influenced my fashion and style choices throughout my life. She believed in simplicity, elegance and comfort. She was the first designer to suggest that women dress with their daily routines in mind. She radically promoted the notion that woman should, first and foremost, dress to please themselves.
Chanel loved the ease of black and white punctuated with stripes and loads of faux pearls. With the stroke of her pen and the scissors that famously dangled around her neck, she transformed men’s wear into elegant, feminine clothes for the modern woman. She also gave us the little black dress (LBD) back in 1926.
If you too love Chanel’s aesthetic, but not the price tag, I recommend these classic Coco inspired pieces at Target (TGFT!):
You might enjoy a fun little book celebrating the best of Coco. And, last bust not least, if you’re not lucky enough to have a garden of camellias like me, don’t worry, you can order a bouquet of artificial camellias.
I cannot deny the beauty of the white camellia, but I reserve my greatest affection for pink roses. And in the spirit of Coco Chanel, my favorite flower inspired me to create a pink shed and then a blog…from the pink shed.
Just as the Christmas decorations are going up inside my home, the camellias are beginning to bloom in my garden! If you are not familiar with this wonderful shade loving plant, allow me to introduce you. It’s an evergreen with wonderful glossy green leaves and it blooms in the late fall and throughout the winter.
The flowers range in color from white to red with every shade of color in between! Coco Chanel loved the blooms in white and it still features prominently in her brand. But, for me…it’s all about pink!
“Nature gives you the face you have at twenty. Life shapes the face you have at thirty. But at fifty you get the face you deserve.”
― Coco Chanel
I wish I could sit down over a glass of champagne and talk to Coco. How old was she when she spoke those words? What did she mean? What did she think of her own face at 20, 30 and 50?
I first encountered her words shortly before I turned 30 and they inspired a trip to the drug store where I purchased Oil of Olay Day Cream with a SPF 15 and I promised myself that each and every day, rain or shine, I’d slather my face in protection, wash before bed and slather again with night cream. I’ve done that, with the rare exception.
I didn’t really think much beyond my daily ritual again until I hit 40. I added facials once a month to the budget. Estheticians agreed that my routine was good, but inadequate, so I added a scrub at night every other day.
A decade later, I really wised up. This “getting older thing” was just going to continue, if I was lucky! I decided it was fine to try a product or minimally invasive procedure that was guaranteed to take 5-7 years off my face. However, after doing the math, I realized I’d still look 50! Then it struck me that no one really cared if I looked 50 or 57, including my husband.
I’m the only one who has to meet myself in the mirror each day.
I found myself reciting those words aloud when it hit me that the truth of them lies not in the literal interpretation but in the figurative one. My life is more than half lived. When I look back on my actions and choices, am I content with what I see reflected back? When I look at myself from this point of view, the mirror is crowded with the faces of others: husband, daughter, Nonnie, brother, friends. Turns out I did prepare to meet myself in the mirror, but the preparation did not come from a bottle purchased at the drugstore.