PARIS — That’s what matters inside, especially when it comes to Chanel’s refurbished watches and jewelry on Place Vendôme.
Not only has the three-story building, which underwent a two-year renovation and reopens on Wednesday, seen its retail space increase from 5,000 to 10,600 square feet, but it’s also filled with conversation-stirring artwork.
And this, even before discovering the watch and jewelry creations of the French luxury house.
“In a way, it’s a mansion for Chanel that we’re going to open to the public,” Frédéric Grangié, president of watches and jewelry at Chanel, told WWD ahead of the opening. “The flagship at 18 place Vendôme is the heart of our watch and jewelry creation and a very emblematic address for us because of its history.
The company settled in this bastion of high jewelry in 1990 when it opened a boutique dedicated to watches. The purchase of the 18th century mansion at number 18 followed in 1997, as home to the brand’s growing jewelery offering.
“We were the first of the new, or rather recent, jewelry houses to set up [there] and in a way, it was as much a revolution as a fashion designer creating fine jewelry,” the executive said, assuming Gabrielle Chanel would have had the building in her sights every day since her suite. at the Ritz.
Bringing in architect Peter Marino for the renovation was an organic process, the executive said, not least because he had designed the building’s previous renovation in 2007.
“He knows the history of Chanel so well [that] it still expresses in a cohesive but evolving way what our designs stand for,” said Grangié, who described the overall idea as “a journey from 1932 and the Bijoux de Diamants collection to 2022 and beyond.”
Marino described his vision for the building and its interiors as a combination of “luxury and modernity” mixing antiques with new elements to embody a brand that is “not static”.
Plus, “you don’t want to reopen the shop with the same chandeliers you ordered 17 years ago – people might think you’ve aged,” he jokingly added.
Entering from Place Vendôme through incongruous blue doors – Marino said this was the sole request of Bâtiments de France, the body responsible for restoring French monuments – visitors encounter a digital chromogenic print of the British artist Idris Khan.
Its flowing lines contained a “modern lyricism” that matched Marino’s perception of the house’s founder.
“[People] always says ‘she’s so strict,’ but if she was just strict boxes, she wouldn’t be Chanel,” he said, pointing to the ribbons she favored in her designs, fashion and jewelry.
In the center of the ground floor, dedicated to high jewelry, stands a bronze column by the Flemish sculptor Johan Creten, intended to echo the Colonne Vendôme, a fascinating monument for Marino, “as famous as the Eiffel Tower” and also great symbol for the world of jewelry.
On the walls, various black lacquer treatments are reminiscent of the couturier’s famous Coromandel screens, as are gilt bronze panels with horizontal gridwork that make it possible to privatize sections of the floor. Throughout, the color palette plays with the house’s black, white, cream and gold tones.
The display cases were inspired by antique Chinese tables, and the varied textures of the rugs, all designed by Marino, a nod to the tweed made famous by the fashion house. Plush seating fills quiet nooks, while artwork — a golden beehive by Sophie Coryndon, a camellia flower collage by Peter Dayton, and antique Japanese flowers in gilded wood — dot the spaces.
Marino was delighted when a lift that had been installed by previous owners, National Westminster Bank, was found not to be a listed feature and could be replaced with a new version. “Making a whole new type of vertical transportation system – a staircase, an elevator – is the most fun for an architect,” he said.
Double the fun in his case, as he also imagined a new staircase connecting the three floors, with a gilded bronze banister and rock crystal panels by goldsmith Goossens, owned by Chanel.
At its foot, he placed a sculpture in stainless steel and rock crystal by the American artist Joel Morrison. Titled “Coco Chandelier”, it features a bust of the couturier with chandelier arms emerging from his capped head and sporting a double C as a nose ring.
Going up to the first floor, the black moves away in favor of cream tones to present watches and pieces of fine watchmaking, with low arched windows overlooking the street.
As the crown jewel of the flagship, the second floor, often referred to as the ‘etage noble’ (or noble story in English) in classic French architecture, houses three new spaces. The first, fashioned after a bank vault, offers a permanent display of the 55.55-diamond necklace, the not-for-sale design commemorating the 100th anniversary of Chanel No. 5 perfume.
Hidden doors lead to the Grand Salon, a long room with bay windows dedicated to fine jewelery appointments. Two of Marino’s blackened “Bronze Box” sculptures, with matching lamps, flank the plush seats beneath a 1950 painting by Nicolas de Staël.
“It gets simpler as you progress. Then when you see the high jewelry pieces, you’re in a kind of white room with very few distractions – except for the stunning view and the Staël painting,” Marino said, recalling how he bought and sold the painting on behalf of clients. several times in two decades.
“When Chanel considered buying [it], I thought it was wild. But they felt it really represents the same kind of luxurious modernism, avant-garde but at the same time, carrying this kind of old eternalism [that] represented the values of the house,” he added.
Grangié called this new iteration of the flagship of watchmaking and jewelry “the culmination of a project initiated in 2020 and a symbolic journey from 1932 to 2022”, and considered that it was “important to create a place that would truly show the full spectrum of our creation. and heritage”.
Beyond the expanded retail spaces, the flagship is meant to be an experience for visitors and customers. “To step inside is to take a journey to encounter the creation of the house,” said the executive, who described the building as a “hub” and hinted at another space dedicated to setting in value of its history being created.
Under the same roof are also the creation studios of the house, directed by Patrice Leguéreau for fine jewelry and Arnaud Chastaingt for watchmaking, and the fine jewelry workshops, which have taken up residence at 18 place Vendôme since 2012.
And don’t expect a disembodied experience here, even given the “immersive lounge” with screens tucked away on the top floor.
Despite a recent foray into virtual reality with a ballet imagined by choreographer Blanca Li, Grangié insisted that the house would remain an exception by avoiding e-commerce and “always favoring the human touch and the personal relationship in what we do and how”. we relate to our customers,” he said.
This followed with the brand’s focus on developing a local customer base as a priority, which the executive cited as “one of the reasons why [Chanel] weathered the pandemic so well.
Although the executive did not share any numbers for the flagship, he expressed confidence in the post-pandemic recovery.
“When travel resumes fully – and it’s already somewhat resumed in Paris, even if certain nationalities remain absent for the moment – external visitors will come in addition to our local customers”, continued Grangié.
Chanel has 55 stores dedicated to its watches and jewelry across the world and the revamped Vendôme flagship will serve as a model for a new chapter for retail in the segment.
“This is the start of a journey that will take us around the world over the next 18 months,” he concluded, naming Tokyo in mid-October, Beverly Hills’ Rodeo Drive in the first quarter of 2023. and New York’s Fifth Avenue by the end of this year as key destinations.