CHanel’s Haute Couture show in Paris on Tuesday afternoon opened in his famous tweed jacket, but instead of a gamine catwalk model emerging from backstage, he appeared in a film projected on the walls of the venue, dressed by musician, Pharrell Williams, playing drums.
Culture was in the air in the bright conservatory-style room, which featured ergonomic sculptures by artist Xavier Veilhan. Along with the usual perfume at each seat, the gift bags contained records by French singer-songwriter Sébastian Tellier, who sat in the front row, also in a tweed jacket, with Keira Knightley and Maggie Gyllenhaal. Tellier’s music was the soundtrack of the show.
Of course, a brand valued at roughly $13.2bn (£11.03bn) with a 1% clientele to please isn’t going to count on cool points entirely for one of its shows. With the atmosphere set, the collection ticked all the boxes that Chanel is known for: a strong focus on tweed suits and long coats in different colors (a tough question for models on a hot July day), monochrome capes in light chiffon dresses. and the usual girlfriend at the end of the show. Cowboy boots, worn by most models, added a bit of an edge.
A section of eveningwear was more eye-catching because it felt wearable: black and green gowns in chiffon and jersey looked less on the red carpet, and had the kind of easy black-tie glamor that non-celebrities could embrace. Assuming they have the budget. This turn towards clothes that play with the needs, desires and lifestyle of customers could be the Virginie Viard effect. Taking over from Karl Lagerfeld after his death in 2019, she is Chanel’s first female designer since Coco herself in the 1960s.
Chanel is one of several luxury brands now more explicitly courting the super of the super rich: consumers who have the budget to buy high-end clothing. Balenciaga will open an exclusive haute couture store in Paris this week, selling items including sunglasses for €3,500 (£3,009).
Next year, Chanel will open a series of boutiques in Asia exclusively for its VIP clients, with China forecast to become the world’s largest luxury market by 2025.
The brand remains a popular symbol of luxury around the world, so much so that luxury goods consumers continue to drive demand for its famous handbags despite six price increases since the start of the pandemic in 2020. When Chanel banned sales to Russian citizens in April, the country’s influencers were so upset that they took to social media to cut off their Chanel products in protest. Revenues reflect this popularity. In 2021, it increased 50% year-on-year, 23% more than pre-pandemic levels.
A new exhibition on the work of Coco Chanel, Gabrielle Chanel: Fashion Manifesto, will be held at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London next year. It will feature more than 180 designs, as well as jewelery and perfume, showcasing his undeniably great contribution to modern fashion (and sidestepping his associations with Nazism). Sponsored by the brand, it will no doubt cement its impressive legacy and likely provide another sales boost in the process.