Famous mannequins and gigantic mirrors: can Chanel be any more ostentatious?

Famous mannequins and oversized mirrors adorned with portraits of the brand’s famous models, such as the iconic Little Black Jacket

You’d hardly be blamed for thinking someone had just brought up a lot of new furniture to look after for an afternoon party. But there was more to Chanel’s second-floor ceremony last week than that. There was also a newly refurbished showroom, which some would say gives it a more visible statement of identity than before. What was actually on the sales floor? Remnants of a home by way of unique mannequins (including a mannequin dressed as well-known Chanel model Karlie Kloss) and huge mirrored screens depicting a screen with images of the brand’s models, much as the brand used to show the full-frontal Christian Dior campaign.

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Inhabitants of the conference room at the beginning of the event were treated to a slideshow of work by the Chanel Design Studio and the designer who runs it, Karl Lagerfeld. Among the examples were the brand’s new biomorphic pavilion-style sign in New York’s Chelsea neighbourhood, a dramatic design for a winter garden in New Delhi, a mirrored sign in the basement of a boutique in Rome (inspires at a New York Chanel store? Perhaps, but with the familiar gaping back-yard sloping out from the facade, the reader may think it’s not Chanel. Either way, the silent, yet richly detailed artwork of Chazen Clark, the artist that designed it, overwhelmed.

That strange feeling of drifting into a film was heightened by the excitement of the new biomorphic installations in the showroom, outside the surprisingly vast and disconcertingly lit interior. The ornately detailed furniture from Italian industrial designer and architect Antonio Citterio was really eye-catching but I wasn’t able to make any out during the two-hour visit. Even further into the exhibition, and out of view, on the loft-like balcony was some of the furniture from the Lagerfeld period, such as the more simplistic drawers that resided in fragrances houses Chanel and L’Oréal and which had housed a sizeable Chanel speciality accessories collection between 1945 and 2002.

The Chanel showroom in Shanghai. Photograph: Lawrence Chung/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The showroom offers space for Chanel’s specialisation collections, with nods to the label’s very broad appeal: discreet stoneware in the chic Chanel Cabinetry group was housed behind glass, but there were also lamps made from concrete, a white ottoman in mannequin form next to a huge radiator, and a glass cabinet containing a collection of mirrors in bold colour combinations that might have appeared to depict famous Chanel styles, such as the Little Black Jacket and the Jolie jacket.

In an environment of frivolity, headlining the speciality collections that were on show were Karl Lagerfeld’s eponymous “studio” pieces: including his signature desks.

You’ll have to pay though, unless you just want to go there. One caveat. Chanel’s head of global communications, Geraldine Feldt, emphasised the emotional price tag that made the celebrations, even in a grim luxury industry, so exhilarating. She referred to the spectacle of the showroom as the “tea party of the affluent in every corner of the world”. That’s one way to over- or under-estimate the significance of an 11th birthday.

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