Chanel’s Bold Move: Grit Meets Glamour in Marseille

Last Updated: June 12, 2024By
Chanel’s New Look: A Bold Move in Marseille

Grey hoodies under pastel tweed suits, a catwalk set atop an apartment building with concrete benches instead of fancy chairs, overlooking the rooftops of Marseille. Chanel has embraced a gritty new era. It’s a fresh look for the iconic brand.

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“If Marseille is unexpected, that’s good. We don’t want to be stuck. We need to take risks if we want to show that Chanel is for everyone,” said Bruno Pavlovsky, Chanel’s president of fashion, before their first-ever show in the city. “If we were just for the elite in Rue Cambon [in Paris], then that would be the beginning of the end.”

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Embracing Diversity

To stay relevant today, even a billion-dollar brand like Chanel needs to engage with real life and diversity. This new strategy is evident in their choice of locations, following shows in Manchester and Dakar, Senegal. “We don’t always want to talk about Chanel’s history – we want to be about the future. Fashion is an outlook, and it is for everyone,” Pavlovsky explained.

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The models, wearing crochet shorts, lace camisoles, and silk dresses, seemed relieved to pair these with practical flat shoes and hoodies. It’s a mix of high fashion and everyday comfort.

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A Unique Setting

Of course, being Chanel, this wasn’t just any rooftop. The show took place at Cité Radieuse, Le Corbusier’s iconic “vertical village” with 337 apartments. This landmark, known for its colorful circuit-board facade, was built to address postwar housing shortages and has become a symbol of Marseille.

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Designer Virginie Viard chose this spot to represent the city’s strong sense of freedom and everyday life. The event turned even grittier due to heavy rain and wind, making guests huddle under umbrellas. The collection, meant for sunny days, faced the elements head-on, with models braving the drizzle in stylish yet practical outfits.

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Marseille’s Spirit

Marseille’s mayor, Benoît Payan, welcomed the Chanel show, which coincided with the Olympique de Marseille football team’s Europa League semi-final. He compared Le Corbusier’s groundbreaking architecture with Coco Chanel’s revolutionary fashion, saying, “Gabrielle Chanel revolutionized the way women dressed, and Le Corbusier the way people live. So it fits completely.”

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While Chanel’s show locations suggest inclusivity, their pricing remains exclusive. A classic 2.55 Chanel flap handbag has soared from about £3,000 in 2010 to £11,000 now. Despite this, Pavlovsky defended the costs, noting the complexity and craftsmanship involved. “It’s a very complex bag to manufacture, with 278 steps in production, and there are fewer and fewer people with the skills to make it,” he said.

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A City of Contrasts

Marseille is a multicultural city, unlike Paris, where the city’s diversity is less visible in the center. “Marseille is a tough city, but no city is perfect,” Pavlovsky noted. He acknowledged the city’s problems but highlighted its beauty and style, shaped by communities from around the Mediterranean living together for centuries. Reflecting on their previous show in Manchester, he added, “We had great feedback from clients who came to Manchester. Some might not have thought to go there, but if Chanel is going, then they are going, and they loved it. This is the same approach.”

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Chanel’s bold move to showcase in Marseille signifies more than just a fashion statement. It’s about embracing change, celebrating diversity, and stepping into the future with style and substance.

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