After two years of renovations, Chanel on Thursday will reopen the doors to its flagship at 15 East 57th Street. While the address is unchanged, the boutique has been expanded to five floors from three, and nearly doubled in floor space to 14,000 square feet.
Every part of the store has been reimagined with new materials such as bronze, seen in a variety of permutations throughout the space. No fewer than 38 different finishes were used, from hand-troweled plaster to gold leaf and crackled lacquers, the latter a nod to the Coromandel screens in Gabrielle Chanel’s rue Cambon apartment.
“Today, these big luxury companies are actually real estate holding companies,” Marino said. “Chanel studied many locations over the years and tried to decide whether it should move the store and become bigger. They looked up and down Madison Avenue, and east and west on 57th Street and could never find anything that was right.”
Marino said that there was some hesitancy on the part of the company to add floors because “traditionally, a luxury store is maximum two stories. The size of Coach loses luxury right away.” But Chanel’s floor width on East 57th Street is actually like that of a New York townhouse. “It’s a different paradigm for luxury,” Marino said. “It’s a big world of Chanel. This is a new thing, it’s really like the house of Chanel.”
A new six-story facade replaces the former three-level treatment with three layers of glass panels framed by a thin black metal grid. The facade references Chanel’s color palette with its abstract interpretation of tweed; the brand’s iconic fabric is used as a design element elsewhere in the flagship.
Marino created a stone box vestibule of Luget, a French limestone, for consumers to pass through as they enter the store. “It’s the kind of limestone of the original Chanel building on rue Cambon, so I had to have it. It’s kind of a mental thing,” he said, adding, “What I didn’t want when you walk into the store was a wall of handbags on the left. I’m sorry, it’s so old.”
Karl Lagerfeld‘s cruise collection for Chanel is cross-merchandised on the first floor with handbags and shoes — a first for the brand. A limited-edition capsule includes a 2.55 handbag and wallet with New York-centric charms and two one-of-a-kind 11.12 handbags made from red or black alligator with diamond-encrusted hardware. There’s a limited-edition steel Code Coco watch with diamond-set bezel and mirror dial, and a new scent, Les Exclusifs de CHANEL 1957, celebrates the reopening.
Marino seeded the 57th Street flagship with 35 works by 24 artists representing 12 countries. He even incorporated two of his sculpted bronze boxes, which are covered in leather. Jean-Michel Othoniel’s 60-foot sculpture of a strand of pearls, which tumbles from the fourth floor to the main level, is the showpiece. The entwined balls of blown glass and stainless steel were individually threaded onto steel rods from top to bottom, by workers on scaffolding, which was disassembled along the way.
Other art at the flagship includes photography by Robert Mapplethorpe, two pieces from Olafur Eliasson’s “Eighteen Moons in Penumbra” series, and Jenny Holzer’s “I Touch Your Hair.” Marino, who is known for installing art in unexpected places, commissioned works by British artist Idris Khan, which hang in the elevator.
Chanel high jewelry represents serious bling. For example, the Signature de Saphir necklace set, with a total carat weight of diamonds, 92.7, and a 21.7-carat Ceylon sapphire, costs $2,860,300. Marino said this is the first store that has a dedicated high jewelry area that sits alongside an area displaying watches and fine jewelry, which is priced beneath high jewelry. “Fine jewelry is new and expansive and leads into high jewelry,” he said.
Other prices in the store include a white puffer jacket from the Coco Neige collection for $5,800, and a black leather blouson with camelia for $6,100. From the Cruise collection, a silk chiffon maxi dress with pleated skirt, $6,450; clutch on a chain, $2,850, and Chanel 31 tote, $4,400.
“How do you combat buying online? The luxury experience is not a three-foot by five-foot dressing room,” Marino said. “Chanel stepped up to the plate and emptied out three floors of offices” to make way for the expanded store.
The fifth floor, the Salon Privé, accessed through a dedicated entrance, offers oversize dressing rooms featuring pieces from the latest Métiers d’Art collection, embellished by the specialty couture ateliers Chanel owns, including a white and black feathered dress, priced at $70,000, and novelty handbags such as a gold and black sequin-covered 11.12.
John Galantic, president and chief operating officer of Chanel Inc., said headcount at the flagship will increase by more than 25 percent. “The new 57th Street flagship will reflect our redesigned boutique service model with a significantly expanded team to meet the diverse and elevated expectations of our clients,” Galantic said, adding that the sixth floor is dedicated to servicing clients after purchases. For the first time in the U.S., two dedicated artisans for watches and fashion will do repairs.