TOKYO — From its computerized underground parking garage up to its sumptuous Alain Ducasse restaurant on the 10th floor, the world’s largest Chanel store bows here Saturday in the burgeoning Ginza shopping district.
“We want to go beyond just being a luxury boutique. We want to offer a luxury-filled day of pleasure for our customers,” declared Richard Collasse, president of Chanel in Japan, the French fashion and beauty firm’s number-two market after Europe.
The 14,000-square-foot boutique is housed in a new black tower on a plot of land that cost $170 million. Chanel declined to provide sales projections, but analysts expect the unit to generate revenues of between $30 million and $50 million per year in one of Asia’s premier retail showcases.
No wonder Chanel is feting the new store in fine style.
Designer Karl Lagerfeld, his entire design team, atelier and entourage in tow, is staging no fewer than eight fashion shows over four days, unveiling a pre-fall ready-to-wear collection with couture detailing and reprising his spring 2005 “red carpet” show for a total audience of 10,000 people, including local school children (but without Nicole Kidman, the guest of honor at the show in Paris last October).
A virtual demigod in Japan, Lagerfeld is causing a stir on the streets of Tokyo, posing for photos before hushed, wide-eyed fans and also “taking pictures like crazy himself with all his cameras,” noted Chanel president Francoise Montenay. “Karl loves Japan.”
And Japan certainly loves Chanel. Despite a tough economic climate that has lingered for a decade, the brand has managed to post double-digit sales growth for most of that time and gained market share in cosmetics and fine jewelry, said Collasse, a France-born executive who has lived in Japan for 33 years.
Even Chanel advertising draws crowds in Tokyo. A giant Christmas tree, set against a towering image of Lagerfeld and a sparkling Eiffel Tower, is one of the most photographed sites on the Ginza strip.
During a walk-through of the store with WWD Thursday morning, Collasse and Montenay pointed out scores of details, from perfect lacquered panels to the whimsical call buttons for the elevator, arranged in a pattern depicting the house’s interlocking double Cs.Shoppers using the main entrance immediately sense the unit’s vast volumes — unusual in the land of 10-seat karaoke bars — and a merchandising strategy that showcases all product categories on every floor. “Wherever you go you can find everything: shoes, accessories, a little ready-to-wear,” explained Montenay, whose mantra is to “constantly surprise the customer — and ourselves.”
Given primary placement on the main floor is an extensive range of Lagerfeld-designed products exclusive to the Ginza location. They include a tweed jacket with knitted fringe edging and pearl-festooned handbags and totes with the Chanel logo written in English and Japanese. The latter come in white, yellow or pink. “Japanese love pink,” said Montenay, who has traveled to Japan 25 times for Chanel.
A concise display of beauty products in a rear nook also includes some exclusive products, from a trio of rare fragrances to compacts of special lip colors and a black-and-white eye shadow pressed to resemble tweed.
Tweed is a running theme, from the artfully trimmed hedges on the rooftop terrace to the soaring facade, which at night depicts computer-generated tweed patterns via 700,000 light-emitting diodes.
Architect Peter Marino’s monolithic black steel and glass building is a high-tech wonder, but one also packed with traditionally rich materials: white granite or marble floors, gold- and diamond-flecked panels and specially designed lacquered tweed furniture.
A black marble-and-glass staircase, with a towering four-story atrium, is perhaps the building’s most dramatic feature and leads shoppers up to a suite of small and large salons, showcasing watches, costume jewelry, knitwear and ready-to-wear, but always with a sprinkling of other products.
“It’s true luxury because it’s intimate, but you have plenty of space,” Montenay said, evaluating the lighting in a fitting room that contains a long, cushioned, built-in bench in lieu of a chair.
The third floor features evening dresses and precious handbags and shoes, with a series of private salons where customers can select their favorite background music, from jazz to French ballads. There is also a library of coffee-table books with touch-screen computers where shoppers can learn more about Chanel and surf its Web site, which is running live broadcasts of Lagerfeld’s shows.The fourth floor, dubbed the Nexus Hall, was especially designed for fashion shows — that is, when young classical musicians aren’t giving performances in a room with acoustics to rival Tokyo’s best concert hall and a Steinway & Sons piano designed by Lagerfeld. Collasse said the convertible space will also host cocktail parties, film screenings and photography exhibitions showcasing the vast collection of France’s national library.
The 100-seat Ducasse restaurant, Beige Tokyo, is bound to be an attraction in its own right, with panoramic views of central Tokyo; a plush, caramel-colored interior and a contemporary French menu cooked in a kitchen almost as luxuriously appointed as the shop. Corporate offices occupy the remaining floors.
Chanel is the latest foreign brand to invest heavily in a splashy flagship in Ginza, with Christian Dior and Pucci arriving in recent weeks. Gucci, which bought a building opposite Hermès, is slated to open in 2006. Hermès, which constructed an 11-story glass brick tower in 2001, was among the first high-end players to lead Ginza’s luxury renaissance. Cartier, Louis Vuitton, Chaumet, Apple and Coach are among other names lining one of the most crowded districts in Tokyo, famed for its chaotic, all-directions crosswalk.
Privately held Chanel, owned by the Wertheimer family, does not provide figures, but Collasse and Montenay underscored their long-term confidence in Japan, where the company operates 36 fashion boutiques, 12 fine jewelry locations and sells its beauty products to 170 doors.
“We think we have a big potential,” Collasse said. “But doing business in Japan obliges everyone to shoot for excellence, because the customer here is one of the toughest and most discriminating in the world. We have to be perfect.”
He said the Ginza flagship should help Chanel once again achieve double-digit sales growth in fashion and accessories next year. Fine jewelry and watches should see similar increases. Collasse noted that Chanel ranks fourth in market share in that category in Japan, after Tiffany, Cartier and Bulgari.
The fact that Chanel is giving members of the public a chance to attend its “red-carpet” show this weekend, in a tent in front of the Imperial Palace, speaks to a friendlier stance for a brand that once welcomed only a few hundred elite to its events. Not that Chanel is trading down.“A lot of our competitors are going to T-shirts. We are not. We are taking people up,” Collasse said.
The collection Lagerfeld showed on Thursday oozed with expensive details, showcasing the handiwork of the couture ateliers Chanel owns. “It’s about refined detail,” Lagerfeld declared backstage, pointing out pumps with a heel resembling a matchstick and a knit dress with an inset waistband of quilted leather. “There’s also a kind of Japanese rock feeling.”
The collection had a dressy, sportswear focus, with ski sweaters paired with skirts meticulously embroidered by Lesage. Lagerfeld carried over his silhouette from couture, showing slightly fuller skirts worn with flat boots.
Evening had a nonchalant feeling, too, with many of the chiffon blouses resembling chic nightgowns. Some numbers had ribbons woven or layered into spectacular skirts and dresses, several with the ribbons snaking around the arms in a gladiator style.
“I call it soft bondage,” Lagerfeld quipped, proving his knack for quotes didn’t get lost in translation.
In his new book “Hollywood Royale,” Andy Warhol’s Protégé Matthew Rolston celebrates the Eighties revival of Hollywood glamour. Featuring more than 100 portraits taken by Rolston from 1977 to 1993, the book contains photos of icons like Michael Jackson, Cyndi Lauper, and @drewbarrymore, pictured here in 1991. “Hollywood Royale,” out today, will be accompanied by an exhibition opening at Los Angeles’ Fahey/Klein Gallery on March 1. #wwdeye
"Nowadays when life is not so happy with everything going on in the world, I think people come to me for a little bit of whimsy and color and fun." - Designer Rebecca De Ravenel on her cult-favorite jewelry line. (📸 : @vsteves) #wwd40
“Everyone is talking about how the retail industry is struggling, but I think it’s an incredible time because brands who are doing something different and innovative are setting themselves up for the future,” said @adamgoldston, who founded the luxury athletic brand @apl with his brother @ryangoldsten. The Goldston’s are part of WWD’s 40 under 40: a group of industry notables. See the rest of the list on WWD.com. (📷: @vsteves) #wwd40
@eyeswoon blogger Athena Calderone debuted her first-ever cookbook, “Cook Beautiful,” which is heavily centered on the presentation and visual expression of food. Pictured here are her miso glazed carrots from the book. Get the recipe on WWD.com. (📷: @johnny_miller_) #wwdeye
“It’s passion that helps get anybody to a certain point and it’s what’s propelled me,” said Kith founder @ronniefieg, one of WWD’s 40 under 40: a group of industry notables who are changing the face of retail, fashion and beauty. Fieg, who opened a Manhattan flagship on October 7, began his career at age 13 as a stock boy and salesman for footwear chain David Z. “I think staying true to [my] beliefs, hard work and passion have gotten me to where [Kith] is today.” See the rest of the 40 at WWD.com. (📷: @vsteves) #wwd40
25-year-old @samweaving is about to break out this fall, starring in Netflix’s horror film “The Babysitter,” fittingly out today on Friday the 13th. That’s not the only place you’ll be seeing her, though — Weaving’s got a role Showtime’s “SMILF” and another alongside Frances McDormand and Woody Harrelson in “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.” Though she’s got a full plate at the moment, there’s one role she’s got her eye on: Marilyn Monroe. “I’m a little too young at the moment, but it’s on my bucket list,” the actress told WWD (📷: @dandoperalski) #wwdeye
BFF's Poppy Jamie and Suki Waterhouse celebrated the launch of their bag line Pop x Suki at Nordstrom last night. "The line is really about our friendship, and how we are so different but complement each other," said Waterhouse. 👯 (📷: Katie Jones) #wwdeye
After designing the new @louisvuitton and @bulgariofficial flagships and a @chanelofficial boutique opening in Japan, @petermarinoarchitect has another project on his plate: The Lobster Club. Located in the Seagram Building, it’s the famed architect’s first restaurant project in New York, serving up modern Japanese brasserie-style cuisine. Bronze hues, bespoke material detailing, blush and chartreuse tones and a heavy emphasis on Picasso can be seen throughout. Mark your calendars for Nov. 1 for the much-anticipated opening. (📷: @clint_spaulding) #wwdeye
Did you know: @carlychaikin of "Mr. Robot" has been painting for about a decade? The actress, who plays Darlene on the show, is a self-taught artist who lists Salvador Dalí and Chuck Close as some of her idols. Chaikin told WWD that painting is a form of meditation for her — A much-needed one given the intensity of "Mr. Robot." See a piece Chaikin is working on at WWD.com (📷: @jilliansollazzo) #wwdeye