NEW YORK – In 1931, Gabrielle Chanel was invited to the United States by Samuel Goldwyn to work on films costumes but before Hollywood, her first stop was New York City. Now the city that never sleeps is again a first stop for the French house, with the debut of its first watch and jewelry flagship in the U.S. on Fifth Avenue here.
“New York has always been key to Chanel,” Frédéric Grangié, president of watches and jewelry at Chanel, told WWD ahead of the grand opening. In fact, Grangié pointed out the flagship has been in the works for quite some time but when a prime location opened up in the historic Beaux-Arts gilded Crown Building on Fifth Avenue, “it had to be,” he confirmed, highlighting the iconic and “very lucky” number 5 for the house.
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Created with longtime collaborator Peter Marino, the flagship at 730 Fifth Avenue takes inspiration from 18 Place Vendôme — also created with Marino — Chanel’s temple to watches and fine jewelry in Paris, which houses its creation studio. Marino, Grangié said, has a “natural, deep and organic” relationship with Chanel and its boutique design, making the process seamless.
The stand-alone Manhattan boutique unfolds over two floors with 3,300 square feet of retail space set in lush splendor. The outdoor facade is striking, employing a grooved black granite with ornate cast bronze screens set behind glass. “She was the first to invent mirrored screens in her haute couture atelier,” Marino said on a call from Paris, detailing how his work is an his ode to the legacy of Coco Chanel.
His gilded screens, he explained, are in contrast “with stark, black chic undetailed modernism.” Standing on one of the highest trafficked streets on the globe, Grangié explained the aim was singular: to make it one of the most luxurious boutiques around.
A tribute to its founder, Fifth Avenue brings the savoir-faire of 18 Place Vendôme Stateside with touches of 31 Rue Cambon — Coco Chanel’s famed apartment address. Interiors expand on a palette of gold and black, moments of rock crystal and — as Marino is known to do — a remarkable assortment of contemporary and fine art, antiques, custom-made furniture and lighting.
The tone is set in the entryway with black and gold lacquer paneling and antique wooden lotus bouquets from Japan’s Edo period. Guests enter a gallery room anchored with a totem copper plate Andre Dubreuil sculpture and gilded walls illuminated by a pair of rock crystal “Dream Catcher” chandeliers by legacy goldsmith Goossens, an artisan partner of Chanel’s Métiers d’art. “We wanted this feeling of ‘wow, this is glamorous’,” Marino remarked.
Just off the gallery, two salons featuring house icons in fine jewelry present themselves. Marino created a buying experience that feels intimate and lavish with hand-applied coromandel-style wall finishes — a callout to Coco Chanel’s apartment — and a carved 8-foot-high gilt Regency-era mirror. Jewelry “is something personal and sexy, for me it’s almost like buying underwear,” Marino cleverly said.
On the wall of one of the salons hangs a portrait of Coco Chanel in diamonds by Vik Muniz. Five as theme is used purposely throughout the space with artworks by “very prominent” women and male artists. It’s “five and five,” Marino quipped of his deliberate assortment of art.
Beyond the gallery, the watch salon contains a selection of timepieces, including the popular J12 and the recently relaunched Première Edition Originale collections. A grand staircase lined with custom 24-karat gold-framed plates of rock crystal Goossens balustrades leads to the mezzanine, which holds two more fine jewelry salons, one dedicated to private client appointments.
Unable to come to Paris to purchase a one-of-a-kind high jewelry creation? Not a problem; the salon offers a 360 immersive experience through the use of an ultra-HD screen, iPad, ceiling microphones and cameras so clients can connect to Patrice Leguéreau, director of the fine jewelry creation studio, giving the high touch experience of visiting the Chanel studio.
The decorative touches on the upper floors include Tang Dynasty ceramic camels and a Louis XV desk by Jacques Dubois in conversation with Tweed lamps by Delos & Ubiedo, a dynamic mixture of modern and ancient art with French craftsmanship, which is the story Marino wants the space to tell.
The heart of the store is Chanel’s history and savoir-faire seen throughout the space through various animations that pull the curtain back even more, offering a deeper understanding through displaying pieces from the archive. The initial animation includes the historic 55.55 necklace, centered around a flawless rare tailor-made diamond cut to 55.55 carats that is surrounded by a cascade of diamonds crafted from the silhouette of the Chanel N°5 bottle. This is what makes Fifth Avenue stand out, cementing the brand’s “ultra ultra lux positioning,” Grangié said.
A very competitive market, Grangié reported that Chanel has had a very strong performance of the watch and fine jewelry category, “doubling the business” in the U.S from 2019 to 2022. “The clientele is there,” he said of the appetite for haute joaillerie, acknowledging that other luxury brands have been “very active,” not only in Paris but with destination activations showcasing collections around the globe.
While events play a part, he added that there was a need for a boutique to showcase the brand’s exceptional craftsmanship, making the flagship project “even more important,” to provide the level of luxury expected from the high jewelry client.
Case in point: Leguéreau has marked the opening of the boutique with his first New York exclusive, a transformable necklace and earrings set in white gold, featuring a white gold and diamond numerical 5, and emerald-cut diamonds. They recall the shape of the N°5 perfume bottle stopper and the emerald-cut diamonds in the necklace and earrings can also be detached and worn on rings.
Pre-launching exclusively at the Fifth Avenue flagship will be the Lion Solaire de Chanel, a new high jewelry collection inspired by Coco Chanel’s beloved Leo star sign. Also only in New York will be a special custom engraving service for rings from the Coco Crush collection.
Fifth Avenue will be “the epicenter of all activities in the U.S.,” Grangié said.
Launch Gallery: Chanel's First Watch and Jewelry Flagship on Fifth Avenue
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