Chanel has taken its rodeo on the road via a unique new concept store.
This story first appeared in the June 27, 2014 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Today, the fashion house will open its first U.S. pop-up shop, which it refers to as an “ephemeral boutique.” The store, in Aspen, Colo., will be open only through July 6, and focus exclusively on the Métiers d’Art Paris-Dallas pre-fall collection that Karl Lagerfeld presented in Dallas in December.
The space, on the second floor of the mountainside Casa Tua restaurant and private club, captures the vibe of the collection.
“It all came together when we were in Dallas with Karl,” said Chanel Inc.’s fashion division president Barbara Cirkva. “Obviously you can never repeat what had been done in Dallas because it was so special, but we thought, ‘We have to do something with this incredibly creative, unique collection,’ and thinking about places where it would resonate, Aspen popped to mind.”
It may not be the land of cowboys (and cowgirls), but there is more to the location choice than meets the eye. In 1994, Chanel was one of the first luxury brands to open in Aspen, though that unit has since closed. “We haven’t been there for years and thought, ‘Wouldn’t it just be perfect for the Aspen customer?’ It’s chic, it’s really special because it’s a Métiers collection, yet there is a casualness to it that is so appropriate for Aspen.”
And the fact that the pre-fall collection hits in summer was not of concern to Chanel executives.
“Aspen has done such an amazing job with the Ideas Festival, the different food and wine festivals and the Music Festival that summer is just as important as the winter ski season,” Cirkva said. “People come from all over the U.S. and internationally in summer. It’s changed so much in the last few years. When [we] were there in the Nineties, there wasn’t that international element that you have today.”
This 1,850-square-foot boutique was designed to reflect the Wild West nature of the collection, but with nods to Aspen. Among the key features is an illuminated Chanel sign with a red Texas star, which graces the entrance to the modern-day saloon. The gray walls are lined with vintage images of cowboys, and navy and red flags hang from two central trees. Mannequins, dressed in looks from the collection, are positioned on wooden pallets around these trees, as well as on top of a central bar. Distressed wood bookshelves showcasing antique objects and accessories from the collection add to the overall Western feel. As Cirkva put it, “It’s a party celebrating these beautiful clothes and accessories that Karl designed.”
While this is the first ephemeral boutique in the U.S., the concept is not entirely new to Chanel. Since 2010, the fashion house has operated ephemeral boutiques in Saint-Tropez from April to October, and Courchevel from December to April. It’s also had pop-ups in Capri, at Harrods in London, at Colette in Paris, Joyce in Hong Kong, Podium in Moscow, Dover Street Market in London and Restir in Tokyo.
“We decided we would like to try it here,” Cirkva said. “It will be a fun experience and very special experience to get to know Chanel in a different environment. People don’t expect it of us.”
The fashion house kicked off celebrations with a dinner party for 200 or so at Casa Tua Thursday night. This being Chanel, it flew in VIP clients from across the U.S. as well as a gaggle of social types. These were expected to include Atlanta de Cadenet Taylor, Tennessee Thomas, Jen Brill, Elisabeth von Thurn und Taxis, Laura Love, Kelly Sawyer, Harley Viera-Newton and Leigh Lezark, with a slated performance by Texas indie band The O’s.
All this leads to one question — how will Chanel top the Aspen extravaganza for the resort collection it showed in Dubai last month? Cirkva, for her part, didn’t provide clues. “We don’t want to be predictable,” she said. “It’s really all about the adventure.”