PARIS — Venturing further into e-commerce, Chanel on Wednesday launched online selling in Europe for hatmaker Maison Michel, one of its specialty ateliers.

Disclosing the development exclusively to WWD, Bruno Pavlovsky, president of Chanel Fashion, said the IT, logistics and service protocols employed for the project are helping the company accrue expertise ahead of the summer launch of online selling for Eres, the Chanel-owned lingerie and swimwear firm, and eventually for the flagship Chanel brand, which in November initiated e-commerce for eyewear in the U.S.

The executive prefers the term “e-commerce/e-service” to connote Chanel’s multichannel approach to online selling: “an extension of what we are already doing in the boutique for the customers.”

The Maison Michel Web store is to offer its complete catalogue spanning 120 headwear references for women and men, along with ties, scarves, headbands, earmuffs and veils.

Pavlovsky noted the company, which employs some 35 people, recently relocated to larger premises in Aubervilliers in suburban Paris to accommodate the e-commerce foray.

The redesigned Web site features oval-framed photos by Chanel’s couturier Karl Lagerfeld of “Girls” star Jemima Kirke sprinkled with images of hats being steamed and shaped on linden wood molds. Interspersed are young hipsters modeling hats in Polaroids or photo-booth snaps, lending the site a spontaneous, lively and unvarnished feel.

Maison Michel, founded in 1936, is now under the artistic direction of Priscilla Royer, an alumnus of Pièce d’Anarchive and Vivienne Westwood.

Acquired by Chanel in 1997 and integrated into its Paraffection subsidiary of specialty ateliers in 2006, Maison Michel has been transformed from a mainly bespoke milliner into a thriving purveyor of chic and quirky off-the-rack toppers.

Pavlovsky acknowledged that the future of hats was unclear even a decade ago, and then they came roaring back into fashion as a statement and a practical necessity as more people seek protection from the sun.

“This change was not that obvious. Now it seems we have something that is quite solid,” he said.

Lagerfeld was certainly feeling hats for his fall collection for Chanel, topping most ensembles with a chinstrap boater.

Maison Michel manufactures hats for Chanel and other brands including Maison Margiela and Lemaire, while its namesake brand is wholesaled to 120 doors and in pop-ups at Bergdorf Goodman in New York, Boon the Shop in Seoul and On Pedder locations in Hong Kong, Singapore, Beijing and Shanghai.

The company also counts a shop-in-shop at Le Bon Marché in Paris, plus two freestanding boutiques: one in London and its two-week-old Paris flagship at 22 Rue Cambon. The firm had spent two years in temporary digs at 19 Rue Cambon. The environs of the French brand’s historic boutique at 31 Rue Cambon resemble a Ritz-scale construction site as workers begin reconfiguring neighboring buildings acquired by Chanel on Rue Duphot and Rue Saint-Honoré. The plan is to expand the original store in two phases and with two storefronts, echoing Chanel’s configuration on Avenue Montaigne.

“Today, we prefer to have two stores of about 4,000 to 5,000 square feet than one large one with more than 10,000 square feet,” Pavlovksy said, describing the enlargement as a multiyear project.

Maison Michel expects to expand online selling to the U.S. next year.

Last year’s eyewear launch in the U.S. marked the French firm’s first e-commerce venture for its vast fashion division. Chanel has been selling fragrances, makeup and skin care online for 10 years in the U.S.

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