“Every single store [in the Miami Design District] is trying to outdo the other with more and more ‘playful’ and elaborate forms of expression. I find them all over the top,” said Peter Marino, the New York-based architect who designed the new Chanel store in the bustling neighborhood, which opens today. “In this context, I’m trying to make the Chanel building stand out with an old simplicity that will offer quite a relief.”
Located in the heart of the district at 155 NE 41st Street, the new boutique feeds off the area’s mix of design and culture. The store aims to be an art piece in its own right — a pure, cool, cube outside and a warm light-filled oasis inside. The two-floor, 7,600-square foot boutique showcases the house’s ready-to-wear, handbags, shoes, eyewear, fine jewelry and watches.
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“It’s a beautiful white cube; very, very elegant with very simple windows,” said Marino, who has designed over 200 stores for Chanel, including in Miami.
“Trying to get a building built during coronavirus, it’s really heroic and hard and stressful” said Marino, who started the project at the beginning of COVID-19. “These times are not fun to build it.” Even if it wasn’t completely done — which fortunately it is — “you can’t miss this incredible December season,” he said.
Marino said the way he hoped to wow people in the Design District was the “old architect’s trick.”
“Give them a really tall ceiling, and they’ll all lie down. And that’s what I did. It’s an extraordinary tall volume with the staircase that makes it stand out,” he said. He noted that the windows on the facade are like paintings.
The building’s white stucco facade balances out the bright sunlight along the main pedestrian plaza. Several large, irregularly placed, clear glass windows press inward at an angle to accentuate the mass and depth of the building. The entry has a beveled black steel frame that draws clients into the store. Inside, a low-lying gallery of gray wave stone floors and white hand-plastered walls is lined with the house’s new handbags, including the 11.12, interpreted in different ways each season, such as metallized gold or silver.
A few stone steps lead into a 30-foot tall central atrium topped by a 120-square-foot skylight. The white double-height space provides light and energy and creates a central court inspired by gatherings at Miami’s annual Art Basel. It was designed to be an event space.
“In the old days you used to say you could go out and smoke, but I don’t know what you’re supposed to say now. Now you can go outside and breathe in the atmosphere,” said Marino.
As with all his projects, he chose specific artwork for the boutique in order to reflect Gabrielle Chanel’s legacy as a patron of the arts. Vera Lutter’s monumental camera obscura photograph “LACMA with Yang-Na 2011-Present, 1: March 8, 2017” lines one wall of the atrium, all bold graphic lines and ethereal palm trees. It’s a nod to Los Angeles and what’s coming next, said Marino, referring to a new Chanel store he’s building from the ground up on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills, slated for completion in 2022.
He described the 40-foot white staircase going up as “a wow with a big skylight on top of it, flooded with light.”
“You can’t do that everywhere,” he said. He said the white marble stairway looks like it’s rising to heaven.
Above the staircase leading to the second level are three works by artist Gregor Hildebrandt, incorporating plastic cassette boxes, reflecting the artist’s preoccupation with music and pop culture that also suits the house’s recent Mod and Punk runway references. Marino explained that Hildebrandt has taken old movie films and put them on the canvas. “It’s very glamorous, the art,” he said.
The Miami store opens with the cruise 2021/2022 collection, designed by Chanel artistic director Virginie Viard and first shown in Les Baux-de-Provence in May. Viard’s graphic collection features good luck charm-embroidered tweed suiting and printed silk separates.
Watches and fine jewelry are housed on sleek shelves and within embedded niches. The J12 Caliber 12.1 Watch, and fine jewelry pieces, like the Coco Crush and Camelia collections, as well as Les Signatures de Chanel, a diamond High Jewelry Collection, are on view under “Black Stella,” a large-scale artwork commission of resin and acrylic, eight feet in length by artist and frequent Chanel collaborator Peter Dayton that is reminiscent of the house’s lines of quilted leather.
Inside the boutique’s elevator is a second commission by artist Chris Succo, who spray-painted black lacquer and oil on white linen in abstract squiggles which Marino called “super cool,” calling to mind a dash of Mademoiselle Chanel’s own hand. The store highlights a lot of young artists “which is a lot of fun,” he said.
On the second floor are shoes and ready-to-wear showcased in dedicated salons. Optic white and glossy black ankle boots and metallic strap pumps are part of the shoe selection between Black Belt Collection Parallelo light fixtures by Peter Marino for Venini and a Fran Taubman Aluminum Plate coffee table. Racks housing pink bouclé suiting edged in wide black brand trim and crochet minidresses surround a Suduca & Merillou wood and rattan coffee table and two metallic Bent Half Tube Chairs by Voukenas Petrides in the rtw salon.
An upholstered Cosmo lounge chair by Augusto Bozzi is in the first changing room underneath “TBT,” a drawing by Jan-Ole Schiemann.
Marino said they used new sisals made out of resins on the floors, rather than traditional wool carpets. “We’re experimenting. [Miami] is a youth market, and I think it’s fun,” he said. The entire decor is black and white, Chanel’s signature colors. “It’s tongue in cheek and really an homage to Coco Chanel’s upbringing. With all those nuns wearing black and white, this store is 100 percent black and white,” he said, referring to how the designer grew up in an abbey.
In a separate interview, John Galantic, president and chief operating officer of Chanel Inc., said the company has had a long, major presence in the Miami market, but it has never been in the Miami Design District before.
“It offered us a chance to appeal to a new client. It is a different client. To make a statement in a market that is an American art capital. The project itself is not just a boutique. Peter does all kind of boutiques, sometimes it’s a facade only, sometimes if the facade exists, he does the interior. Here, he built an entire building. The whole architecture, it’s a bigger statement of the allure and modernity of the house, one of the biggest we’ve made in the U.S.,” said Galantic.
“We think it’s going to be big,” he added, declining to give sales projections.
He noted that Chanel has a store in Bal Harbour, Fla., “which continues to perform very strongly and tends to attract a little bit more of an international tourist.” In the current environment, Chanel’s business “is very heavily local right now. It will gradually change as things open up,” he said.
Discussing overall business, Galantic said Chanel’s business has been doing very well and is outperforming the major luxury players.
“Business is very strong. The good news is our growth, which is well ahead of the market versus 2019, is being achieved through healthy fundamentals which build the brand for the long term. We’re creation-led and we’re hyperfocused on the quality of the client experience. To be growing faster than the other absolutely luxury brands while we’re the only ones not to offer open access e-commerce, means at the same time, we’re increasing our exclusivity advantage and raising the image of the brand,” he said.
According to Galantic, the level of growth Chanel has seen is ahead of the projections. “What’s encouraging is we grow fastest in the high luxury categories like high jewelry and ready-to-wear,” as well as precious jewelry, where it is doubling its 2019 business, driven by Coco Crush, which retails from $1,300 to $34,050. He has also seen record high market share for fragrance, where they’re number one by a big margin, and they’re celebrating 100 years of Chanel No.5, “which is the most powerful icon of the house.”
In addition to fragrance, skin care has been an important growth driver. Watches are trending above pre-pandemic levels and are growing, he added.
“We’re building the brand long-term on direct-to-client model in all three divisions (fashion, fragrance and beauty, watch and fine jewelry). It allows us to offer omnichannel services that really increase the quality of the client experience,” he said.
One of their fastest-growing channels is their fragrance and beauty omnichannel. “It’s not coming at the expense of wholesale, which continues to grow in those market that we’re present with our boutiques,” he added.
Chanel has seen in their direct to client models in all three divisions that when they have better control of the client relationship and have one inventory, they can offer more services so the client has a better experience. They have also found that in rtw, accessories and costume jewelry, “when we have one inventory, rather than siloed inventories, we are able to serve the client better, have higher full-price sell-through and offer better service to customers shopping in their boutiques and at multibrand retail,” he said.
They also have discovered through this shared database that they have elite customers they didn’t know about because their purchases were siloed in different data buckets. “When we see a 360 view of that client, we’re able to discover that she is more important that we thought,” he said, noting that they’re able to give her more access to experiences and services with the brand.
Chanel has completed the move to a concession model in fashion, and they are experimenting with different models in the other two divisions, which can be concession or consignment.
As for future Chanel stores, Galantic said they’ve renovated and expanded the Wynn in Las Vegas (which opened in October) and opened CityCenter in Washington, D.C., last July. Next year they will open at The Shops at Crystals in Las Vegas and have a massive project underway with new real estate to build a new flagship in Beverly Hills. That would open in about a year. An ephemeral boutique in Aspen opens Dec. 17.
He said that this one will be a bigger statement than they’ve done in the past and they continue to use these ephemeral boutiques as ways to test long-term viability of a permanent boutique, which is a possibility in a growing market like Aspen. It will stay open until March 20.
In total, there are 24 freestanding Chanel stores in the U.S. There are 45 additional locations which have been converted to a lease model, mainly at Neiman Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue, and a few locations with Bloomingdale’s and Nordstrom.
Discussing growth opportunities, Galantic said in stores where they sell makeup and skin care, their market share is growing strongly. They’re contributing more growth than any other brand in their competitive set. Chanel is expanding the fragrance and beauty stand-alone boutiques, which he called “a big driver of the business.” They intend to have 12 by yearend (there are 11 now), with the plan is to be at 50 by 2025. They will add another dozen next year.
“We will continue on this fast growth pace,” he said. They can be freestanding in malls or outdoor community shopping areas. “It seems to create a market halo for all the points of distribution in that area,” he said.
Festivities around Chanel No.5’s centennial continue. Chanel has commemorated the fragrance’s centennial with a new high jewelry collection, a limited-edition product range and a party in New York’s Rockefeller Center. A No.5 light show via drone technology over Miami’s Faena beach took place Wednesday night and is slated for Santa Monica, Calif., on Dec. 9. Last Tuesday, the brand’s Es Devlin-designed installation, “Five Echoes” — which combines themes of sustainability with motifs of Gabrielle Chanel’s own life opened to the public through Dec. 21. Admission is free, with online, timed ticketing available.
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