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With feminist protests, couture sneakers and pregnant brides on its runways, there is little doubt that Chanel considers itself “contemporary” in the of-the-moment sense of the word, if not its department store definition. But today, in an exercise in merchandising democracy, Chanel opened a pop-up shop in Bergdorf Goodman’s fifth-floor 5F space, where some of its neighboring labels include Theory, Acne, Isabel Marant and Milly.

This story first appeared in the October 10, 2014 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

“Am I allowed to step on this?” asked Josh Schulman, Bergdorf’s president, on Wednesday as he walked through the “Chanel on 5F” gym installation, which had been under construction for two days. “We’ve been waiting for this for a very long time. We’re all very excited.”

Inspired by Chanel’s “Coco Coach” fall ad campaign, shot by Karl Lagerfeld and featuring fashion’s sportiest, arguably most tomboy-ish models of the moment — Cara Delevingne and Binx Walton — in a boxing ring, the pop-up space looks like a gritty gym, with gray lockers, chain-link fences, benches and barbells in a set designed by Chanel’s in-house team. Mannequins wearing the colorful runway dreadlocks, tweed cardigans and sweats — as well as handbags, sunglasses and sneakers, sneakers, sneakers — are merchandised throughout the space. 

Chanel already has considerable Bergdorf real estate — the expansive couture salons on the second floor and a main-floor accessories space — but they have a very different mood than 5F. Popping up on the floor for contemporary and advanced contemporary is part of the store’s plan to elevate the department and appeal to a client who shops across department store classifications. “We saw that the way the customer was dressing, she wasn’t really distinguishing between what came from a contemporary floor and what came form a couture floor or designer floor,” said Schulman. “Those words are all really retail jargon, but our most stylish, most advanced customers were wearing a luxury bag with cool items from 5F.”

Since the fifth floor was renovated two years ago, Bergdorf got rid of about 25 established contemporary brands to focus on the edgier, advanced sector of the market (Kenzo, Alexander Wang) and began experimenting with true luxury pop-ups — a Jimmy Choo biker-boot lounge and a Manolo Blahnik BB pump bar — to expose the brands to new audiences. “It’s sort of this intersection between uptown and downtown,” said Schulman. “Within the context of Bergdorf, 5F is our downtown floor.” 

Chanel takes the concept to a very different level. The pop-up, which is open through Oct. 19, has taken over the Bergdorf Goodman blog and 57th Street windows, typically reserved for 5F fashion. “After the fall show, Bergdorf’s was the first to come to us and say, ‘Let’s talk about doing something special,’ ” said Barbara Cirkva, Chanel Inc. division president, fashion, noting that Chanel already sees regular crossover between clients shopping on Bergdorf’s main and second floors and the fifth floor. “It’s the idea that you don’t have to go between [floors] two and five. They have a very hip sales staff [on 5F], and we’re totally confident that they’re going to make a statement about this other side of Chanel.”

Having the house’s French design and visual team fly in to New York to build out the pop-up set, which includes an installation on Bergdorf’s ground floor, was “very unusual for us,” said Schulman. “Even though the inspiration for this is sort of rough, being a gym environment with a chain-link wall and lockers, the quality of the installation is something that we would typically do for a permanent shop-in-shop.” Additionally, the casual, athletic style — every look was worn with sneakers — of Chanel’s fall collection might reflect the contemporary spirit associated with 5F, but not its usual price points. 

Prices have not been adjusted for the new neighborhood: A low-top sneaker is $1,350, and a high-top sneaker is $1,800; a small shopping basket is $7,200, and the large one goes for $12,500. 

As the posters in the Chanel Supermarché runway set at the Grand Palais last March read: “Plus 30 percent.”

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