Chanel: Ravishing New Girl in Town
With temperatures in the mid-thirties, and the sun riding high in the sky, it was a perfect day to stroll down Park Avenue to investigate the recently reopened Chanel boutique. Two decades after Chanel opened its New York City flagship on East 57th Street, between Fifth and Madison, the 14,000 square foot boutique has undergone a complete restructuring by the architect Peter Marino, who has designed a number of Chanel stores, including those in Istanbul and Beverly Hills.
Vive la différence
After two years of on-going reconstruction—more than a face-lift, it’s a full body sculpting—the five-floor Chanel has emerged as a real glamour puss. The classic black-and-white facade is described as “Miesian,” an homage to the Seagram building by the German-born architect and designer Ludwig Mies van der Rohe.
Dreaming in Chanel
Stepping inside, it’s the place of dreams, Chanel dreams. The black-and-white color scheme continues, along with tweed carpeting, which I suspect is a reference to Coco Chanel’s’ suits. What took my breath away was the whimsical sixty-foot suspended sculpture—hand-blown glass and stainless-steel pearls—evoking Mademoiselle Chanel's iconic pearls. You can see a small potion of it above, but for the full effect, you will need to stand in the stairwell, as I did. What could possibly be more perfect? Also in the stairwell were these mannequins sporting timely cruise-wear.
As for the sculpture, the French artist Jean-Michel Othoniel, who’s been interpreting pearls in glass artworks for twenty years, has created more than thirty necklace-like sculptures for Chanel boutiques around the world. This one, climbing four-stories high into the sky, is his largest to date.
A Touch of Genius
The pieces were commissioned by Peter Marino, the black-leather biker-clad visionary behind the store design for Chanel, as well as for Dior, Bulgari and others. But as beautiful as the store is, what prompted my visit that day was the death on February 19th of Karl Lagerfeld, the genius behind the Chanel collections for the last 35 years.
Born in Hamburg 85 years ago, he was one of the great talents of French couture, along with Coco Chanel, Christian Dior and Yves Saint Laurent. As the creative director of Chanel, Mr Lagerfeld took what had become a brand heavily dependent on the fusty classic Chanel suit and reinvented it as the multinational luxury brand it is today. To do that, he unbuttoned the jackets and added the flowing lines, as seen on the mannequins at the top of this post.
The boutique on East 57th opened with the release of Chanel's cruise 2018/2019 collection. Each collection includes far more than expensive frocks. Alongside the ready-to-wear are costume jewelry and eye-wear, watches and fine jewelry, handbags, shoes, and fragrances. In that department, there’s a new scent, Les Exclusifs de Chanel 1957, which will be sold in the store and was designed by Chanel's in-house perfumer Olivier Polge.
The beautifully detailed pink jacket above will set you back $5800 while the adorable pink top to the right, as fluffy as an Old English sheepdog, is a mere $4800. I’m keeping my eye on that one! Should you be mad for pearls, those are the shoes for you. But should you be watching your pennies this month, the socks can really add a bit of dash to any outfit.
This is not actually Mr Lagerfeld’s last collection which, according to my charming sales associate, Jared, will debut on the runway in Paris two weeks from now. He explained that Mr Lagerfeld designed eight collections a year for Chanel and another six for Fendi. Throughout the store, the staff is young, attractive, multi-national and engaging. One female sales associate complimented me on my ‘beautiful hat,’ while another associate thought my lightweight mohair coat perfect for spring. No more of those snide looks from the sniffy Bergdorf Goodman ladies of years gone by. Why stay home, when you can have such a good time on the streets and in the stores of New York?
It’s the end of an era in many ways and Mr Lagerfeld will be succeeded by Virginie Viard, his trusted associate with whom he worked for more than thirty years. With a change at the helm and this beautifully redesigned boutique in the heart of midtown, it’s just the beginning.
Reaching the top floor, I found this lovely sitting area backed by antique Coromandel screens like those in Gabrielle (Coco) Chanel's Paris apartment on rue Cambon. C'est magnifique, n'est-ce pas? Well, that’s all for this week mes amis, hope to see you soon when I’ll have the coffee at the ready. Here’s a tip: If you plan to do any spring shopping, think PINK! More on that next week…à plus tard.