Sometimes the lines outside Louis Vuitton are longer. But those queues are more easily explained. They comprise tourists from the Far East, Japan, and increasingly, mainland China, who want to buy bags with the easily recognisable LV monogram. They will buy anything as long as it has the monogram. But Chanel is more difficult to explain. Yes, one or two of the handbags are iconic the 2. But the bulk of the goods on sale have nothing like the ubiquitous monogrammed canvas that makes Louis Vuitton so attractive to Chinese people and bootleggers alike.
Much of it is not easily identifiable as Chanel unless you know where to look a clasp here, a chain there and bag for bag, Chanel is far more expensive than Vuitton. Plus, there are the clothes. At Vuitton, even at rush hour, the rooms that stock the garments are thinly populated. But at Chanel, the clothes are often the point. So what accounts for the power of the brand? Why do people pay so much for Chanel clothes and accessories? And why, despite the lines outside the stores, does Chanel, unlike say, Vuitton, preserve its image as a quality brand for discerning people who like to buy clothes and accessories that seem elegant and timeless?
The exhibition divides itself into two parts. The first consists of paintings, letters and artefacts that have to do with the life of Coco Chanel. Her love of wealthy often British or German men, her friendships with such artists as Salvador Dali, Jean Cocteau and Pablo Picasso and her love of European history contributed to the look we identify with Chanel today. This may well have been true and certainly, it helps the brand that it comes steeped in such a rich tradition of art and culture.
But I sensed a disconnect between the first half of the exhibition with its memories of the young Coco and the second half which was dedicated to Chanel No. We are expected to believe that No. It is a line that the public buys and one that helps Chanel rise above the Vuittons, Diors, Guccis and other fashion brands. Except that it is not that simple. For a start, Coco Chanel did not design or create Chanel No.
After she had opened her boutique, she asked a perfumer called Ernest Beaux to invent a fragrance for her. Beaux came up with many samples and the story goes that Coco chose the fifth sample, hence the name No. Nor did Coco Chanel own the fragrance.
It was always produced for her by the Wertheimer family who were already in the fragrance business and who gave her a share of the profits. Coco turned against them, took up with a Nazi lover and tried to have their property confiscated because they were Jewish. When the war ended with the defeat of the Nazis, Chanel fled to Switzerland to escape the stigma of being a collaborator and the Wertheimers made No. Finally, in the mid-Fifties, the Wertheimers made Coco a relatively generous offer: she could come back to France and resume making clothes under the Chanel brand-name.
But they would own the company. Coco would only get an annual payment. Since that day, the Wertheimers have owned all of Chanel, but have remained obsessively low-profile. Its bottomline was entirely dependant on the scent of No. When Coco died in , her reputation as a couturier did not outlive her and the clothes business continued the slide that had begun during her last years.
The House of Chanel revived and moved beyond fragrance only in the s after the Wertheimers hired Karl Lagerfeld to design the clothes. Chanel is still privately owned by the Wertheimers so we have no way of knowing how much of the turnover comes from clothes and accessories and how much from fragrance. Unlike many other houses which use large corporations to create fragrances for them, Chanel has always designed its own scents.
Its current perfumer Jacques Polge is a legend in the trade and all the new Chanel fragrances you are likely to see are his work: Coco, Chance, Allure, Bleu, Egoiste and the various extensions of each Allure Sensuelle, Platinum Egoiste, Coco Noir etc. You have probably never heard of Sheldrake or Polge or Ernest Beaux or the Wertheimers, for that matter. The House does a lot to give credit to Polge and Sheldrake and all references to No. The refusal to provide any information about the Wertheimers, however, is entirely deliberate.
The point is that while Polge is quite happy to discuss say, the creation of Bleu or Coco Noir, he is happiest submerging himself in the legacy of Coco Chanel. And the Wertheimers, extraordinarily enough, seem to bear Coco no ill-will for the way she treated them.
Nor are they even willing to accept the credit for bringing her back from exile in the s or for reinventing the House of Chanel in the s. They prefer to remain faceless. It is, at one level, a magnanimous strategy. But, at another level, it is also a shrewd strategy. Nearly everybody who goes to Chanel buys into the cult of Coco and into the suggestion that the House is a seamless extension of her original s work.
It is an amazing story. The profits that I have received from my creations since the foundation of this business … are disproportionate. Chanel never publicly commented on or explained her wartime activities, refusing to answer questions on the subject. And yet, despite such increased awareness on a mainstream level, Chanel, the brand, has managed to sidestep and keep at bay this not-so-spectacular aspect of its history, in the eyes of most consumers, at least.
How, exactly, is this possible, you ask? For instance, before Hugo Boss A. Paired with this, the viability and reinvention, to some extent, of the Chanel brand post-WWII was a product of careful — and very selective — branding decisions.
On the heels of her return to Paris, having fled to Switzerland and escaped legal liability on more than one occasion for her Nazi involvement reportedly due to her having friends in high places , Chanel — the brand and the woman behind it — went into marketing rehabilitation overdrive that stretched beyond France to the states. She was there to sell.
Saint-Laurent achieved successful quickly, and is responsible for dressing many important women all over the world. Yves Saint Laurent was also fond of art, and created many outfits inspired by 20th century masterpieces, like the Mondrian dress. Hubert de Givenchy. In he opened his first boutique on rue Alfred de Vigny, then moved it to 3 Avenue Georges V, where the headquarters of Givenchy currently remain.
His first couture collection was presented on February 2nd, Hubert and Audrey became good friends, until the day of her passing in It was introduced in and is still an iconic piece that appears on the runways today.
The designer eventually left his fashion house to design for John Galliano in Louis Vuitton was born in , in Anchay, a small village in northeastern France. In , after his father remarried, Vuitton decided to travel to Paris…on foot. The journey to the capital took him 2 years. Upon his arrival in Paris, the budding designer became an apprentice to Monsieur Marechal, a box maker, and quickly became popular with Parisian high society.
In Vuitton opened their first box-making workshop near the palace Vendome. He then invented the flat trunk. This was a major innovation, as it was more practical than most trunk models at the time. Louis died in , leaving his legacy to his son Georges, who ultimately led the brand to greater fame and success.
It was in that he gained his nickname, which would not only become the future logo of his brand, but also part of the whole identity of Lacoste. The first crocodile item was born in , when Lacoste asked a friend, Robert George, to draw a crocodile on his blazer.
The image has since become iconic. Lacoste was forced to leave tennis in for health reasons. The revolutionary polo shirt was made out of jersey, resulting in a light, flexible, and breathable product. The s were a successful decade for the brand. Lacoste launched many new products, such as the polo dress, the cardigan, and a perfume line. The first Lacoste store opened in , on avenue Victor Hugo, in Paris.
Ravageurs play tennis. I have an indisputable right of priority. The profits that I have received from my creations since the foundation of this business … are disproportionate. Chanel never publicly commented on or explained her wartime activities, refusing to answer questions on the subject. And yet, despite such increased awareness on a mainstream level, Chanel, the brand, has managed to sidestep and keep at bay this not-so-spectacular aspect of its history, in the eyes of most consumers, at least.
How, exactly, is this possible, you ask? For instance, before Hugo Boss A. Paired with this, the viability and reinvention, to some extent, of the Chanel brand post-WWII was a product of careful — and very selective — branding decisions. On the heels of her return to Paris, having fled to Switzerland and escaped legal liability on more than one occasion for her Nazi involvement reportedly due to her having friends in high places , Chanel — the brand and the woman behind it — went into marketing rehabilitation overdrive that stretched beyond France to the states.
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