Chanel has a long and colorful history in Palm Beach. After unveiling its inaugural U.S. flagship on North Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills, the Paris-based luxury brand in 1985 chose the wealthy South Florida enclave located on a barrier island between Lake Worth Lagoon on the west and the Atlantic Ocean on the east as the place for its second U.S. store.
Chanel is now showing Palm Beach some love. The fashion house today is unveiling a new 13,260-square-foot store on two levels. Designed with all the latest luxury accoutrements, the location is an example of one of the industry’s favorite buzzwords: experiential retail.
The store, which combines existing square footage with newly captured space, was completely redesigned, said John Galantic, president and chief operating officer of Chanel Inc. The complete world of Chanel is represented, including ready-to-wear, handbags, shoes, costume jewelry and eyewear designed by Virginie Viard, artistic director of Chanel fashion collections, as well as watches and fine jewelry, fragrance and beauty.
“Because we’re adding so much space and adding completely new features, we consider it a new store, even though it’s the same location on Worth Avenue,” Galantic said. “We’re adding a lot of space — about 30 percent more square footage. It’s going mainly to ready-to-wear, which is our fastest-growing category in the U.S. The growth is very exciting for us, and ready-to-wear is particularly developed in Palm Beach.
“We’re already growing by double digits in Palm Beach,” Galantic said. “We would expect to pop on top of that when we open the new boutique.”
Chanel tailors stores to local communities and their residents. Since Palm Beach clients are known to enjoy entertaining, the new store boasts a dining room. It’s the first of its kind, a feature that doesn’t exist at any other boutique. “The largest addition is the event space upstairs and the dining room,” Galantic said.
Architect Peter Marino, who defined and continues to refine the modern visual vocabulary of Chanel boutiques, designed a ceramic table with a blackened satin glaze, suede dining chairs, and a textured gold decorative panel for the store.
“We try to continue in Coco’s tradition,” said Galantic. “She was a great patron of the arts and created a salon community. We like the idea of being relevant and being tailored to a local community. In Palm Beach, where we have a longtime clientele and big customers, Chanel becomes part of their social community. In the Palm Beach setting, the dining room makes sense. We’re going to bring in interesting people and speakers. Where we’re headed is more experiential, and the experiences should be built around the local community.”
Marino chose works of art that reflect the taste and aesthetics of Coco Chanel. “In terms of the artists he’s chosen, it’s more around artists and artisans who are inspiring,” Galantic said, citing the Goossens chandelier that presides over the shoe salon and its displays of the new patent leather two-tone pumps from the cruise collection and sandals in shades of purple, fuchsia and turquoise.
There are also ceramics by Bruno Gambone, an Italian artist who leaves imperfections in his works to remind observers that they were made by hand. “It fits together under what we would call, experiential hospitality, which means being relevant to your guests and being sensitive to their lifestyles,” Galantic said. It’s built on what already is the residential theme of our boutiques, inspired by Coco Chanel.
More art can be found in unexpected places, such as the store’s three dressing rooms, where standout works by Agnes Martin, Fernando Daza and Georges Pelletier can be appreciated on a more intimate level, away from the bustle of the store.
The three ready-to-wear salons on the first floor feature a mix of modern and antique furniture. In the first room, a pair of Theo Roth chairs are next to a contemporary André Dubreuil stone-top coffee table, while in another salon, a pair of Louis XI fauteuils are a foil for a 1969 mixed media coffee table by Arman made from 24-karat gold and Plexiglass.
Handbags on offer include the new Chanel 19, which has a flap shape with oversize CC closure and is available in three sizes in quilted leather or tweed. There are also other styles, such as the 2.55, 11.12, and Boy Chanel. The handbags in shades of coral and white, and pastel pink and blue, echo the colors of the pink stucco creations of Addison Mizner, the architect who’s closely associated with Palm Beach and left his mark on the city in the Twenties.
“In all of our boutiques, we’re buying the collections for a local clientele,” Galantic said. We actually have a much younger clientele in Palm Beach, younger than you would think. They’ve grown up with the brand.”
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