Retail report: The art of Chanel


The new Chanel London flagship opens in New Bond Street tomorrow and at 12,600 square feet it’s a vast improvement on its Old Bond Street predecessor. In terms of trends, retail and otherwise, it weaves in quite a few. There’s the trend for ‘at home’ styling; featuring grand mantlepieces, ample couches and coffee tables (for the wealthy BRIC customers to consider their purchases I suspect, not for bored husbands and kids).

There’s also an intertwining of fashion and beauty rather than a clear separation as is usually the norm. If anyone has been responsible for the ‘fashionisation’ of beauty it’s gotta be Chanel who were among the first for showcasing seasonal limited edition beauty products (hello nail art crazes and temporary tattoos) on the catwalk.

The most interesting aspect of the store for me though is the big focus on art – most of it specially commissioned. In a recent interview with The Telegraph, Chanel’s architect Peter Marino, explained that the art investment had more than one purpose. Firstly, of course commissioning original art is a great way to create strong impact and a unique identity in a store. It can even entice customers in (I’m a big fan of art in retail environments). But Marino’s thinking went further. He persuaded Chanel to increase its art budget to the power of ten, so that he could commission more than the usual 5 new artworks. For this store, he has commissioned 20 new pieces, the expectation being that the works will appreciate in value with time, thus justifying the initial outlay. It’s an interesting approach and a clever one I think.

My invitation to the store preview must have got lost in the post so I’ve scoured Google, Twitter and Instagram for whatever art pictures I can find. Artists include Richard Deacon, Y.Z Kami, Peter Dayton, Robert Greene and Idris Khan. Most dramatic is Jean-Michel Othoniel’s 11-metre ‘necklace’ of giant handblown Murano glass ‘pearls’ that cascades down a three-floor atrium. (Marino designed the staircase around the artwork.) Another stunner is Marc Swanson’s lifesize deer, covered in 200,000 Swarovski crystals. All the artworks are in neutral creams, greys and golds to reflect the Chanel house colours and overall colour scheme for the store.  Liza Lou’s sculpture of gold-plated wheat sheaves represent Coco Chanel’s superstition – she kept wheat in each room of her apartment as it was considered lucky. But my favourite piece from those I’ve seen is the ‘CHIC’ crude oil sculpture by Russian artist Andrei Molodkin. You can see this and all the other works in the flesh from tomorrow at Chanel, 158-159 New Bond Street, W1.

Jean-Michel Othoniel’s Murano ‘necklace’ installation

Marc Swanson Swarovski deer
Marc-Swanson-Swarovski-deer AnotherMagazine

Andrei Molodkin ‘Chic’ sculpture
Chanel-Chic-Andrei Molodkin-Alex-Loves
Chanel-Chic-Andrei Molodkin-Alex-Loves  2

Liza Lou gold-plated wheat sculpture
Chanel-Bond-Street-Liza-Lou Grazia Daily

[IMAGE CREDITS: Top to bottom:
Chanel x 2/Another Magazine/Alex Loves x 2/Grazia Daily/Alex Loves]