The revolutionary ”art” of chaos at Chanel

The latest CHANEL Cruise 2016 in Seoul, which took place this Monday, is probably the most lacklustre and cheap looking collection signed by the now 81 year old designer, Karl Lagerfeld. But afterall, who cares about the clothes when Anna Wintour showed up for her seal of approval. Sadly, in its predictability, the collection clearly shows the brand has been gradually but surely losing aesthetic touch with consumers.

For the past three years, CHANEL advertisings look the same and each new store is a copy paste of another. In a city with 9 CHANEL stores, is Chanel still able to rekindle aspiration or desirability?!?

And it is not only the loss of brand value through the grey market.  Consumers in Asia have evolved their taste and are expecting much more than the 20% discount to equalize prices with Europe.They are yearning to rediscover the Chanel lifestyle which is based on exclusivity and prestige which Lagerfeld can no longer deliver!

I can hardly believe that the ‘Metiers d’Arts’ shows and the constant promotion, with an over-exposure for the past 3 years of two models (Cara, Kendall),  boyfriend Baptiste Gibiocconi (model turned singer) and singer Pharrell had any relevance from a lifestyle point of view. Do these ‘muses’ truly inspired Lagerfeld?

According to several sources who would refuse to be named, Chanel sales, in China alone, slowed down by up to 15%. The privately owned business does not report financials. However, with the occasion of the Seoul store, Chanel Fashion President Bruno Pavlovsky said 2014 was an exceptional year. Then, why did the owning family resort to selling the most profitable company, beauty brand Bourjois last month?

Many argued that the sale of hugely profitable mass market beaty company Bourjois by the family which owns Chanel would finance the set up of e-commerce which will be launched next year. This is yet strategic branding mistake, exposing the already over-exposed brand, apparently creating an anticipation as if Chanel will revolutionize e-commerce…It remains to be seen how Chanel will reinvent the wheel competing with giants such as YOOX.

Racaping this years CHANEL’s activities, I realized I am facing utterly chaos: repeat Metiers d’Art show in New York / project to open high jewellry store in Paris / launch of 4 ‘affordable’ jewelry pieces on Net-a-Porter / haute couture with sneakers / pret-a-porter staged in a Cafe / a repetitive watches collection at Baselworld / ’3 Girls, 3 Bags‘ (apparently the new IT bags of the house) / 20% price cuts in China / Karl Lagerfeld receives a bespoke Apple Watch before it was even available for sale ….

And then, I remembered CHANEL exceptional beauty business which is an institution of luxury business, which unlike other fashion brands which launches beauty has mainted its luxury positioning despite wide availability and has kept its global lead (CHANEL No5 has been No 1 for years)

That is why, I ‘dared’ ask myself -  is there really a marketing strategy at Chanel’s fashion business? Is there a coherent sales strategy for fashion? Is there a strategic retail expansion strategy? Is there an ”after Lagerfeld strategy”? What was the latest innovation by CHANEL in fashion? (i.e. advertising, raw materials, architecture of stores etc)  Or maybe CHANEL is all about this magic chaos and does not run by business rules !

Maybe what the Wertheimers should do is do a complete swap between the management of CHANEL Beauty & Fragrances and the team heading fashion. Next: close stores and redesign select flagship stores with a completely different interior design and an exclusive availability of certain products. Forget about e-commerce! Launch men’s collections! (there is absolutely no founded business reasoning). And last….STOP TRAVELING CATWALK SHOWS! Chanel is Paris!

Oliver Petcu

CHANEL Cruise 2016 Seoul