LONDON — While Chanel is restricting sales to overseas Russians in Europe, the Middle East and North America because of its invasion of Ukraine, it appears that Russians in China, a nation that has not yet imposed any sanctions on Russia, are not required to sign any papers when shopping at Chanel, according to salespeople working at the brand’s stores there.
A sales associate, who requested anonymity, told WWD that as of Tuesday, the retail team was never instructed to ask Russian nationals to sign any declarations before making a purchase. In China, there are a considerable number of Russians living and working in cities like Shanghai, Guangzhou, Shenzhen and Hong Kong, where Chanel has a retail presence. In theory, they can act as shopping proxies to help those in Russia buy from Chanel without a problem.
Over the weekend, Chanel was once again caught up in controversy as wealthy Russians, who fled to places like Turkey and Dubai to continue their luxury lifestyles, found out they are no longer welcomed at Chanel in those countries.
Lisa Litvin, a Russian interior designer at Partners Pro, was among the first to share her in-store experience.
“I went to a Chanel boutique in the Mall of the Emirates. They didn’t sell me the bag because (attention!) I am from Russia,” she wrote on Instagram last Friday.
She was told that Chanel “has a new order that they only sell after I sign a piece of paper saying that I won’t wear this bag in Russia,” and she has to provide ID details and a Russian phone number.
“Next, the manager said that starting from today they were selling to Russians only if they sign an agreement not to wear their items in Russia,” she added.
Her Instagram account has been private since Monday.
Fashion show presenter Anna Kalashnikova claimed that Chanel refused to sell her earrings and a bag in Dubai because she is a Russian celebrity.
She also claimed a manager at the store told her that, “We know you’ll be taking purchases to Russia, so we can’t sell our brand’s items.”
Russian influencer Yana Rudkovskaya, the wife of Olympic figure skating champion Alexander Plyushenko, who is said to have spent more than 1 million euros at Chanel over the years, said the ban is “somewhat humiliating.”
“This is a shock for a woman who’s been buying Chanel and Chanel Haute Couture for more than 20 years, and who sat at its shows in the front row,” she added.
Maria Zakharova, Moscow foreign ministry spokeswoman, later accused Chanel of joining “the Russophobic campaign to cancel Russia.”
In a statement sent to WWD, Chanel said “the most recent EU and Swiss sanction laws include a prohibition on the ‘sale, supply, transfer or export, directly or indirectly, of luxury goods to any natural or legal person, entity or body in Russia or for use in Russia.’ Under the applicable EU sanctions, this prohibition applies to luxury goods listed insofar as their value exceeds EUR 300 per item (CHF 300 under the CH sanctions).”
“This is why we have rolled out a process to ask clients for whom we do not know the main residency to confirm that the items they are purchasing will not be used in Russia. We recognize that this process of walking through the law has caused disappointment to some of our clients.
“We are currently working on improving this approach and we apologize for any misunderstanding this may have caused, as welcoming all our clients, regardless of where they come from, is a priority for Chanel,” the brand added.
Since the beginning of March, luxury players including LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, Hermès, Kering and Chanel have “temporarily” closed their stores in Russia in response to the escalating situation, although in some cases they continue to wholesale there.
Chanel at the time said it would no longer deliver to Russia.
“We will close our boutiques and we already suspended our e-commerce,” the company wrote. “The safety of our employees is our priority and we remain closely connected to our local teams who we will continue to support.”