At Chanel, colours have an autobiographical relationship with the founder Coco Chanel. Thus, colours and the Chanel Colour Guide are memories, encounters, experiences – life itself. The little black dress created in 1926 made a dress a myth, like Chanel and his colour guide itself. “I enforced the colour black,” Coco Chanel once said. White is associated with a memory for Coco Chanel: the nuns’ winged cap from her childhood. Also associated with her youthful years, beige pays homage to Auvergne, but also to the beaches of Biarritz, Beauville and the island of Lido di Venezia. Gold also had an overriding significance for Coco Chanel, because in addition to precious jewellery, gold has been an expression of the highest perfection in architecture and art for millennia. And red is the ultimate shade of life with a magical aura. Immerse yourself in Chanel’s colours with me and learn all about one of the most extraordinary colour theories in the world of luxury.
Lamb leather is the most common type of leather used in Chanel bags today. It is a smooth and supple leather that feels almost buttery soft when you glide your hands over it. Another common leather is so-called caviar leather. This is treated, grained calfskin that is water repellent. It has a more grainy and textured feel than lambskin. Both of these classic leathers are available in a wide variety of Chanel colours. If you are looking for something special, there are also less common materials such as cotton, transparent plastic, Chanel tweed or some exotic leathers. In addition, there are limited Chanel designs that are only sold in certain countries. The inside of a Chanel bag is also important. Here, too, colour and material play a role. Many older models have a burgundy leather lining. Nowadays, the lining is either wine red or black and feels very smooth. Some bags also have a fabric lining to make the bag lighter.
To match the leather, the model and the colour, a Chanel bag defines its hardware. The most common types are shiny gold hardware, shiny silver hardware and ruthenium hardware. Some seasonal Chanel bags may also have antique, brushed, pale or matte gold hardware. Other variations include matte silver hardware, black hardware, shimmering hardware, plexiglass or enamel hardware and embellished hardware.
The world’s most popular Chanel bags include the Flap Bag – also known as the Chanel 2.55, the Chanel WOC (Wallet on a Chain) and the Chanel Boy Bag. They all feature the iconic Chanel quilted pattern, a long shoulder strap and subtle Chanel hardware. And it’s these Chanel bags, in black with gold hardware, that are always in our minds when we think of Chanel. The black of a Chanel bag is so timeless and elegant that they are perfect as a day or night bag. The fact that colours have a deeper meaning at Chanel is evident from the fact that a perfume was launched in 2012 as Coco Noir. Coco Chanel is reported to have once said, “I reinvented black and it still reigns because black trumps everything”. For luxury label Chanel, black is the strongest colour of recognition, which is why a black Chanel bag is a fashion staple. And even though black Chanel bags are probably among the best-selling, they always fetch proud prices on the secondary market.
White is the antithesis of black, and indeed the monochrome look is considered the epitome of Chanel. For Coco Chanel, white was the perfect colour to capture light, make the face glow and support beauty – because it is the colour of absolute transparency and transcendence. French colour expert and runway writer Guillaumette Duplaix attests to Chancel’s chromophobia in view of the reduction to black and white. This is the categorical rejection of colour. According to Duplaix, colour is something that characterises the lower nature. However, since we are dealing with fashion at Chanel, such notions should not be taken too seriously. A white Chanel bag perfectly completes any tout blanc look. It is the perfect colour for summer, for the radiant south and the pure Chanel feeling.
Another colour that Chanel interprets as absolutely timeless is beige. The fashion house underlines this with an eau de parfum called Beige, which was released in 2016. According to it, beige is floral-creamy. Beige was one of Coco Chanel’s favourite colours from the very beginning. And just as nuanced as the fragrance Beige is, so is the colour palette of beige shades. From deeper shades of taupe to a lighter, almost yellow hue, Chanel has proven time and again that one should never underestimate the subtle power of more sophisticated brown. Every now and then, Chanel changes its beige a little. One year it goes more into really pink and another year it’s decidedly bright and exudes optimism. What is always true of Chanel beige is that hardware in gold completes the look perfectly. And what did Madam Chanel think of beige? She saw it as radiant skin, golden honey or a sun-drenched beach. And while black and white are perfect opposites, a beige Chanel bag accentuates a monochrome look.
Inspired by the history of religious iconography to Byzantine ornaments in gold, this colour is found in Chanel bags especially in the fittings and the typical chain straps. French colour expert Guillaumette Duplaix justifies Chanel’s use of gold by saying that it has been the epitome of wealth, beauty and prosperity since the 12th century, that it is associated with divine worship and that Chanel uses this colour to reach out to all sections of the population worldwide. In other words, a certain universal colour with a royal aura. Gold has a very special meaning for Chanel because it harmonises with all colours, adds that extra touch of luxury to a black look and makes understated fabrics shine. In many Chanel collections, gold threads are woven into the fabrics. Gold has a natural power to transform other colours – whether as an accent to beige or as an elegant contrast to black. Coco Chanel was particularly attracted to playing with real gold and the gold of buttons and costume jewellery, which alone celebrates the colour rather than the material. Chanel without gold would be like Paris without the Eiffel Tower – simply nothing.
In addition to the lining of Chanel handbags, the Parisian fashion house makes skilful and versatile use of the colour red, interpreting it as the colour of passion, courage and energy. At Chanel, red gets a very special attention, because between all the colours that tend to appear in nuances and never seem obtrusive, a Chanel red is a real eye-catcher. Among the signature colours, it is the only one with real radiance. And it is another homage to the vita of Coco Chanel, who, however, was not only thinking of the uniform in the orphanage of the convent of Aubazine, but of the colour of life, of blood, what our body needs. Red creates attention and this can be used sensually but also practically, because why else would women all over the world know the shades of red of Chanel lipsticks by heart? Also, the red lining of a Chanel bag helps you find things faster. The fact is, you will always discover red in Chanel collections. And also quite clearly, red is always combined with gold at Chanel.
Outside of signature colours, Chanel is colourful and fashionable. This includes bright colours that are processed using a unique technique so that their effect is permanent. This can be a reflective patent leather or a bag with a PVC finish. If you prefer a classic, feminine style, opt for a pretty pastel shade from Chanel, such as baby blue, lemon yellow or lilac. Softer leathers such as lambskin or caviar complement these delicate shades. Chanel also has a rich palette of pink/pink shades. Cooler pinks are combined with silver hardware, while the warm pinks tend to have gold hardware and chains. Rare Chanel models include bags where the leather and hardware have the same shade of pink. Chanel’s pink tones are the epitome of angelic beauty and summer romance. In fact, pink is almost one of Chanel’s signature colours.
To the delight of many pastel lovers, Chanel went one step further in 2017 and made a Rainbow Boy Bag for the Cruise collection. Since then, Chanel has designed the Rainbow Boy Bag in lighter shades in 2018. Always, the hardware is in silver. Chanel went one step further with the so-called “Mermaid” collection. These unique colours have a shiny, metallic look and for very special models like the Chanel 2.55, Chanel does without the typical C-clasp – a real collector’s item. Any metallic look makes a Chanel handbag look young and modern. So my tip: Look for shimmering Chanel bags as well as Chanel bags with iridescent ruthenium clasp.
The Chanel colour guide naturally includes the tactile trademark tweed. Often woven with two contrasting colours, a Chanel handbag in tweed presents a very different look. Here, one thinks of the vast landscape, heavy coats and the cool months of the year. And that tweed, as interpreted by Chanel, never goes out of fashion was proven by Virginie Viard, Chanel’s artistic director and designer, in the ready-to-wear autumn-winter 2022-2023 collection with numerous small bag models in tweed with a certain retro look.
With this brief introduction to Chanel’s colour code, you’ll be able to find the right Chanel bag for you even faster. You can either go for Chanel’s signature colours or boldly go for a colour of the season. Depending on your type, I recommend starting with either a boy bag or Chanel 2.55 in black, because this bag will stay with you for a long time and represent your lifestyle in a distinguished way.